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Full text of "Works. With additional sermons, etc. etc. and a corrected account of the life and writings of the author"

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printed for c. j. g. and f. rivingtonj j. nunnj longman, rees, 
orme, brown, and green; t. cadell; j. richardson; baldwin 
and cradock; hatchard and son; r. scholey; whittaker 
and co. ; hamilton, adams, and co.; simpkin and marshall ; 
smith, elder, and co.; e. hodgson; and j. collingwood : also 
for j. parker, oxford; j. and j. j. deighton, cambridge ; and 
g. and j. robinson, liverpool. 








The following work was undertaken at 
your lordship's recommendation, and, amongst 
other motives, for the purpose of making the 
most acceptable return that I could, for a 
great and important benefit conferred upon 

It may be unnecessary, yet not perhaps 
quite impertinent, to state to your lordship, 
and to the reader, the several inducements 
that have led me once more to the press. The 
favour of my first and ever honoured patron 
had put me in possession of so liberal a pro- 
vision in the church, as abundantly to satisfy 
my wants, and much to exceed my preten- 
sions. Your lordship's munificence, in con- 



junction with that of some other excellent 
prelates, who regarded my services with the 
partiality with which your lordship was pleased 
to consider them, hath since placed me in 
ecclesiastical situations more than adequate 
to every object of reasonable ambition. In 
the meantime, a weak, and, of late, a painful 
state of health, deprived me of the power of 
discharging the duties of my station in a 
manner at all suitable, either to my sense of 
those duties, or to my most anxious wishes 
concerning them. My inability for the public 
functions of my profession, amongst other 
consequences, left me much at leisure. That 
leisure was not to be lost. It was only in my 
study that I could repair my deficiencies in the 
church: it was only through the press that I 
could speak. These circumstances entitled 
your lordship in particular to call upon me 
for the only species of exertion of which I 
was capable, and disposed me without hesita- 
tion to obey the call in the best manner that 
I could. 

In the choice of a subject, I had no place 
left for doubt; in saying which I do not so 
much refer, either to the supreme importance 
of the subject, or to any scepticism concerning 


it with which the present times are charged, 
as I do to its connexion with the subjects 
treated of in my former publications. The 
following discussion alone was wanted to make 
up my works into a system; in which works, 
such as they are, the public have now before 
them the evidences of Natural Eeligion, the 
evidences of Kevealed Eeligion, and an ac- 
count of the duties that result from both. It 
is of small importance that they have been 
written in an order the very reverse of that in 
which they ought to be read. I commend, 
therefore, the present volume to your lord- 
ship's protection, not only as, in all proba- 
bility, my last labour, but as the completion 
of a regular and comprehensive design. 

Hitherto, my lord, I have been speaking of 
myself, and not of my patron. Your lordship 
wants not the testimony of a dedication, nor 
any testimony from me; I consult, therefore, 
the impulse of my own mind alone when I 
declare, that in no respect has my intercourse 
with your lordship been more gratifying to me 
than in the opportunities which it has afforded 
me of observing your earnest, active, and un- 
wearied solicitude for the advancement of 
substantial Christianity; a solicitude, never- 


theless, accompanied with that candour of 
mind which suffers no subordinate differences 
of opinion, when there is a coincidence in the 
main intention and object, to produce any 
alienation of esteem, or diminution of favour. 
It is fortunate for a country, and honourable 
to its government, when qualities and disposi- 
tions like these are placed in high and in- 
fluencing stations. Such is the sincere judge- 
ment which I have formed of your lordship's 
character, and of its public value : my personal 
obligations I can never forget. Under a due 
sense of both these considerations, I beg leave 
to subscribe myself, with great respect and 


Your lordship's faithful 

And most devoted servant, 


Bishop Wearmouth, 
July, 1802. 






Eight cases. 





Eye and telescope. 
Light — Distance. 
Eyes of birds. 

of fish. 
Minuteness of picture. 
Socket — Eye-brow — Eye-lid — Tears. 
Nictitating membrane — Muscle. 
Why means used . 



No account hereby of contrivance. 



Viviparous J. animals. 


Instance from Gardener. 




Repetition from Chapter I. 


Superfluous parts. 
vAtheistic argument. 
Remains of possible forms. 
•"fc/CTse arising out of the parts. 
s/A principle of order. 
. -J Of our ignorance. 





Imperfection of knowledge no proof of want of con- 
trivance. — On 



Of bones. 








Ball and socket. 





Passage of blood-vessels. 



Moveable cartilages. 

How well the joints wear. 

Immoveable joints. 




Suitableness to the joints. 
Antagonist muscles. 
Not obstructing one another. 

Action wanted where their substance would be incon- 
Variety of figure. 

How many must be right for health. 
Particular muscles. 
Celerity of motion. 
Tongue — Mouth — Nose. 
Music — Writing. 

Combination — Delicacy. 
Mechanical disadvantages. 
Single muscles. 
Lower jaw. 
Slit tendons. 
Bandage at the ankles. 
Hypothesis from appetency repelled. 
Keill's enumeration of muscles. 
Why mechanism not more striking. 
Description inferior to inspection. 
Quotation from Steno. 



1 . The circulation of the blood. 

disposition of the blood-vessels — Arteries — Veins. 

heart, as receiving and returning the blood, 
as referable to the lungs. 
Valves of the heart. 
Vital motions involuntary. 

2. Alimentary system. 

Passage of the food through the stomach to the intestines, 
of the chyle through the lacteals and thoracic 
duct to the blood. 


Length of intestines. 
Peristaltic motion. 
Tenuity of the lacteals. 
Valves of the thoracic duct. 
Entrance at the neck. 

3. Gallbladder. 

Oblique insertion of the biliary duct into the intestines. 

4. Parotid gland. 

5. Larynx. 

Trachea — Gullet — Epiglottis. 
Rings of the trachea. 
Sensibility — Musical instrument. 
Lifting the arm to the head. 



1. Correspondence of sides. 

Not belonging to the separate limbs. 
Nor to the internal contents. 
Nor to the feeding vessels. 

2. Package. 
Septa of the brain. 

3. Beauty. 
In animals. 
In flowers. 

Whether any natural sense of beauty. 

4. Concealment. 

5. Standing. 

6. Interrupted analogies. 
Periosteum at the teeth. 
Early skin at the nails. 

Soft integuments at the skull. 




1 . Covering of animals. 
Of man — Of birds. 
Structure of feathers. 
Black down. 

2. Mouths of animals. 
Bills of birds. 
Serrated bills. 
Affinity of mouths. 

3. Gullets of animals. 

4. Intestines of animals. 
Valves or plates. 

5. Bones of animals. 

of birds. 

6. Lungs of animals. 

of birds. 
7« Birds oviparous. 

8. Instruments of motion. 
Wings of birds. 

Fins of fish. 

Web-feet of water-fowl. 

9. Senses of animals. 



Pax wax of quadrupeds. 
Oil of birds. 
Air-bladder of fish. 
Fang of viper. 
Bag of opossum. 
Claw of heron. 
Stomach of camel. 
Tongue of woodpecker. 





Eye of the foetus. 

Lungs of the foetus — foramen ovale, &c. &c. 


^'relations, illustrated in a watch. 

Alimentary system. 

Kidneys, ureters, and bladder. 

Eyes, hands, feet. 


Teats and mouths. 

Particular relations. 





Elephant's proboscis. 

Hook in the bat's wing. 

Crane's neck. 

Parrot's bill. 

Spider's web. 

Multiplying-eyes of insects. 

Eyelid of the cameleon. 

Intestines of the alopecias. 

Snail — Muscle — Cockle — Lobster. 

Sloth — Sheep. 

More general compensations. 

Want of fore-teeth — Rumination. 

In birds, want of teeth and gizzard. 




Wings of birds — Fins of fish — Air and water. 

Ear to the air. 

Organs of speech — Voice and respiration to air. 

Eye to light. 

Size of animals to external things. 

Of the inhabitants of the earth and sea to their elements. 

Sleep to night. 




Incubation of eggs. 
Deposition of eggs of insects. 
Solution from sensations considered. 



Clytra of the scarabaeus. 

Borer of flies. 



Metamorphosis of insects. 

Care of eggs. 

Observations limited to particular species. 

Thread of silk- worm and spider. 

Wax and honey of bee. 

Sting of bee. 

Forceps of the panorpa tribe. 

Brushes of flies. 


Motion of the larva of the dragon-fly. 

Gossamer spider. 

Shell animals. 

Snail shells. 

Univalve shell -fish. 


Lobster shell. 

Variety of insects. 



Preservation, perfecting, and dispersing of seed. 



Particular species. 


Cuscuta Europaea. 



Colchicum autumnale. 
Dionaea muscipula. 



Consolidation of uses. 

Reflecting light. 
Evaporating fluids.- 
Restoratives of purity. 

2. Water. 
Circulation . 

3. Fire. 
Dissolvent power. 

4. Light. 



Fixing the source of light and heat in the centre. 

Permanent axis of rotation. 

Spheroidicity of the earth. 

Of centripetal forces. 

Attraction indifferent to laws. 

Admissible laws within narrow limits. 

Of admissible laws., the present the best. 

United attraction of a sphere, the same as of the con- 

stituent particles. 
The apsides fixed. 
Figures of the planetary orbits. 
Buffon's hypothesis. 



Not the object of our senses. 
Contrivance proves personality. 


Misapplication of laws. 


Second causes. 

Of generation as a principle. 

Atheistic suppositions. 

BufFon's organic nodules. 


Analogies by which they are supported. 

Camel's bunch. 

Crane's thighs. 

Pelican's pouch. 

Analogy strained. 

Solutions contradicted. 

By ligaments — Valves. 

By senses Of animals. 

By the parts without motion. 

By plants. 








Necessary existence. 




From the laws of attraction, and the presence of light 

among the heavenly bodies. 
From the laws of nature upon our globe. 
Resemblance of animals. 



From the parts and faculties of animals. 


The actual happiness of young animals. 

Winged insects. 

1 prop. Of old age. 

Of different animal habits. 
Praepollency of happiness. 
Causes of not observing it. 

Apparent exceptions. 
Venomous animals. 
Animals of prey. 

2 prop. Taste. 

Adaptation of senses. 
Property, origin of. 
Physical evils of imperfection. 
Bodily pain. 
Mortal diseases. 
Civil evils of population. 
/ Idleness. 

s/ 0bjections from chance answered. 
^VTust be chance in the midst of design. 
>/Ignorance of observance. 
Advantages of chance. 
Sensible interposition. 



Natural religion prepares the way for revelation. 




In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against 
a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there : 
I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to 
the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it 
perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this 
answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the 
ground, and it should be inquired how the watch hap- 
pened to be in that place ; I should hardly think of the 
answer which I had before given, — that, for any thing 
I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet 
why should not this answer serve for the watch as well 
as for the stone? why is it not as admissible in the 
second case, as in the first ? [For this reason, and for no 
other, viz. that, when we come to inspect the watch, 
we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) 
that its several parts are framed and put together for a 
purpose^ e. g. that they are so formed and adjusted as 
to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to 
point out the hour of the day; that, if the different 
parts had been differently shaped from what they are, 
of a different size from what they are, or placed after 
any other manner, or in any other order, than that in 
which they are placed, either no motion at all would 
have been carried on in the machine, or none which 



would have answered the use that is now served by it. 
To reckon up a few of the plainest of these parts, and 
of their offices, all tending to one result : — We see a 
cylindrical box containing a coiled elastic spring, which, 
by its endeavour to relax itself, turns round the box. 
We next observe a flexible chain (artificially wrought 
for the sake of flexure) communicating the action of the 
springfrom the box to the fusee. We then find a series 
of wheels, the teeth of which catch in, and apply to, each 
other, conductingthe motion from the fusee to the balance, 
and from the balance to the pointer : and at the same time, 
by the size and shape of those wheels, so regulating that 
motion, as to terminate in causing an index, by an equable 
and measured progression, to pass over a given space in 
a given time. We take notice that the wheels are made 
of brass in order to keep them from rust; the springs 
of steel, no other metal being so elastic ; that over the 
face of the watch there is placed a glass, a material em- 
ployed in no other part of the work, but in the room of 
which, if there had been any other than a transparent 
substance, the hour could not be seen without opening 
the case. This mechanism being observed (it requires 
indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps 
some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and 
understand it ; but being once, as we have said, observed 
and understood), the inference we think is inevitable, 
that the watch must have had a maker: that there must 
have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, 
an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose 
which we find it actually to answer: who comprehended 
its construction, and designed its use. 

I. Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclu- 
sion, that we had never seen a watch made; that we 
had never known an artist capable of making one ; 


that we were altogether incapable of executing such 
a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding 
in what manner it was performed; all this being no 
more than what is true of some exquisite remains of 
ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the generality of 
mankind, of the more curious productions of modern 
manufacture. Does one man in a million know how 
oval frames are turned? [ignorance of this kind exalts 
our opinion of the unseen and unknown artist's skill, 
if he be unseen and unknown, but raises no doubt in 
our minds of the existence and agency of such an artist, 
at some former time, and in some place or other. Nor 
can I perceive that it varies at all the inference, whether 
the question arise concerning a human agent, or con- 
cerning an agent of a different species, or an agent pos- 
sessing, in some respects, a different nature."j 

II. Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our con- 
clusion, that the watch sometimes went wrong, or that 
it seldom went exactly right. The purpose of the ma- 
chinery, the design, and the designer, might be evident, 
and in the case supposed would be evident, in whatever 
way we accounted for the irregularity of the movement, 
or whether we could account for it or not. It is not 
necessary that a machine be perfect, in order to show r 
with what design it was made : still less necessary, where 
the only question is, whether it were made with any 
design at all. 

III. Nor, thirdly, would it bring any uncertainty 
into the argument, if there were a few parts of the 
watch, concerning which we could not discover, or had 
not yet discovered, in what manner they conduced to 
the general effect; or even some parts, concerning 
which we could not ascertain,, whether they conduced to 

b 2 


that effect in any manner whatever. For, as to the 
first branch of the case ; if by the loss, or disorder, 
or decay of the parts in question, the movement of 
the watch were found in fact to be stopped, or dis- 
turbed, or retarded, no doubt would remain in our 
minds as to the utility or intention of these parts, al- 
though we should be unable to investigate the manner 
according to which, or the connexion by which, the 
ultimate effect depended upon their action or assist- 
ance; and the more complex is the machine, the more 
likely is this obscurity to arise. Then, as to the second 
thing supposed, namely, that there were parts which 
might be spared, without prejudice to the movement 
of the watch, and that we had proved this by experi- 
ment, — these superfluous parts, even if we were com- 
pletely assured that they were such, would not vacate 
the reasoning which we had instituted concerning other 
parts. The indication of contrivance remained, with 
respect to them, nearly as it was before. J 

IV. Nor, fourthly, would any man in his senses 
think the existence of the watch, with its various ma- 
chinery, accounted for, by being told that it was one 
out of possible combinations of material forms; that 
whatever he had found in the place where he found 
the watch, must have contained some internal configura- 
tion or other; and that this configuration might be the 
structure now exhibited, viz. of the works of a watch, 
as well as a different structure. 

V. Nor, fifthly, would it yield his inquiry more sa- 
tisfaction, to be answered, that there existed in things 

a principle of order, which had disposed the parts of fc 
the watch into their present form and situation. iHe 
never knew a watch made by the principle of order; 


nor can he even form to himself an idea of what is 
meant by a principle of ordeil distinct from the intelli- 
gence of the watchmaker. 
* %f^ — VI. Sixthly, he would be surprised to hear that the 
^ , mechanism of the watch was no proof of contrivance, 

only a motive to induce the mind to think so : 
XJ* ( VII. And not less surprised to be informed, that 
■f y r { the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result 
jy jfi- of the laws of metallic nature. It is a perversion of 
JT language to assign any law, as the^ (efficient^) operative 
rqr cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent ; for 
it is only the mode, according to which an agent pro- 
ceeds : it implies a power ; for it is the order, according 
to which that power acts. Without this agent, without 
this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law 
does nothing, is nothing. The expression, " the law of 
metallic nature," may sound strange and harsh to a 
philosophic ear; but it seems quite as justifiable as 
some others which are more familiar to him, such as 
" the law of vegetable nature," " the law of animal 
nature," or indeed as " the law of nature" in general, 
when assigned as the cause of phaenomena, in exclusion 
of agency and power; or when it is substituted into 
the place of these. * J V"* * ¥***"- 

VIII. Neither, lastly, would our observer be driven 
out of his conclusion, or from his confidence in its 
truth, by being told that he knew nothing at all about 
the matter. Tie knows enough for his argument : he "j MHp 
knows the utility of the end: he knows the subserviency T , 
and adaptation of the means to the end. These points /*C 
being known, his ignorance of other points, his doubts 
concerning other points, affect not the certainty of his 
reasoning. The consciousness of knowing little need 
not beget a distrust of that which he does know. \ 




Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found 
the watch should, after some time, discover, that, in 
addition to all the properties which he had hitherto 
observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of 
producing, in the course of its movement, another watch 
like itself (the thing is conceivable) : that it contained 
within it a mechanism, a system of parts, a mould for 
instance, or a complex adjustment of laths, files, and 
other tools, evidently and separately calculated for this 
purpose ; let us inquire, what effect ought such a dis- 
covery to have upon his former conclusion. 

I. The first effect would be to increase his admiration 
of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consum- 
mate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the 
object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the 
intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism, by 
which it was carried on, he would perceive, in this new 
observation, nothing but an additional reason for doing 
what he had already done, — for referring the construc- 
tion of the watch to design, and to supreme art. If 
that construction without this property, or which is the 
same thing, before this property had been noticed, 
proved intention and art to have been employed about 
it ; still more strong would the proof appear, when he 
came to the knowledge of this farther property, the 
crown and perfection of all the rest. 

II. He would reflect, that though the watch before 
him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which 
was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it 


was in a very different sense from that, in which a car- 
penter, for instance, is the maker of a chair; the author 
of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts 
to their use. With respect to these, the first watch was 
no cause at all to the second ; in no such sense as this 
was it the author of the constitution and order, either 
of the parts which the new watch contained, or of 
the parts by the aid and instrumentality of which it 
was produced. We might possibly say, but with great 
latitude of expression, that a stream of water ground 
corn : but no latitude of expression would allow us to 
say, no stretch of conjecture could lead us to think, 
that the stream of water built the mill, though it were 
too ancient for us to know who the builder was. What 
the stream of water does in the affair, is neither more 
nor less than this ; by the application of an unintelligent 
impulse to a mechanism previously arranged, arranged 
independently of it, and arranged by intelligence, an 
effect is produced, viz. the corn is ground. But the 
effect results from the arrangement. The force of the 
stream cannot be said to be the cause or author of the 
effect, still less of the arrangement. Understanding 
and plan in the formation of the mill were not the less 
necessary, for any share which the water has in grinding 
the corn ; yet is this share the same, as that which the 
watch would have contributed to the production of the 
new watch, upon the supposition assumed in the last 
section. Therefore, 

III. Though it be now no longer probable, that the 
individual watch, which our observer had found, was 
made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth 
not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that 
an artificer had been originally employed and concerned 
in the production. The argument from design remains 


as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are no more 
accounted for now, than they were before. In the same 
thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. 
We may ask for the cause of the colour of a body, of 
its hardness^ of its heat; and these causes may be all 
different. [We are now asking for the cause of that sub- 
serviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we 
have remarked in the watch before us."? No answer is 
given to this question, by telling us that a preceding 
watch produced it. There cannot be design without 
a designer; contrivance, without a contriver; order, 
without choice ; arrangement, without any thing capable 
of arranging ; subserviency and relation to a purpose, 
without that which could intend a purpose % means 
suitable to an end, and executing their office in accom- 
plishing that end, without the end ever having been 
contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. (^Ar- 
rangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means 
to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the 
presence of intelligence and mind/] No one, therefore, 
can rationally believe, that the insensible, inanimate 
watch, from which the watch before us issued, was 
the proper cause of the mechanism we so much admire 
in it; — Eould be truly said to have constructed the 
instrument, disposed its parts, assigned their office, de- 
termined their order, action, and mutual dependency, 
combined their several motions into one result, and that 
also a result connected with the utilities of other beingsT? 
All these properties, therefore, are as much unaccounted 
for, as they were before. 
•M* IV. Nor is any thing gained by running the difficulty 
farther back, i. e. by supposing the watch before us to 
have been produced from another watch, that from a 
former, and so on indefinitely. Our going back ever 


so far, brings us no nearer to the least degree of satis- 
faction upon the subject. Contrivance is still unac- 
counted for. We still want a contriver. A designing 
mind is neither supplied by this supposition, nor dis- 
pensed with. If the difficulty were diminished the 
farther we went back, by going back indefinitely we 
might exhaust it. And this is the only case to which 
this sort of reasoning applies. Where there is a tend- 
ency, or, as we increase the number of terms, a con- 
tinual approach towards a limit, there, by supposing 
the number of terms to be what is called infinite, we 
may conceive the limit to be attained : but where there 
is no such tendency or approach, nothing is effected by 
lengthening the series. There is no difference as to 
the point in question (whatever there may be as to many 
points), between one series and another; between a 
series which is finite, and a series which is infinite. A 
chain, composed of an infinite number of links, can no 
more support itself, than a chain composed of a finite 
number of links. And of this we are assured (though 
we never can have tried the experiment), because, by 
increasing the number of links, from ten for instance 
to a hundred, from a hundred to a thousand, &c. we 
make not the smallest approach, we observe not the 
smallest tendency, towards self-support. There is no 
difference in this respect (yet there may be a great 
difference in several respects) between a chain of a 
greater or less length, between one chain and another, 
between one that is finite and one that is infinite. 
This very much resembles the case before us. [The 
machine which we are inspecting demonstrates, by 
its construction, contrivance and design. Contrivance 
must have had a contriver; design, a designer; whe- 
ther the machine immediately proceeded from another 
machine or not. ^That circumstance alters not the case. 


That other machine may, in like manner, have pro- 
ceeded from a former machine : nor does that alter the 
case; contrivance must have had a contriver. That 
former one from one preceding it : no alteration still ; 
a contriver is still necessary. No tendency is perceived, 
no approach towards a diminution of this necessity. It 
is the same with any and every succession of these ma- 
chines ; a succession of ten, of a hundred, of a thou- 
sand ; with one series, as with another ; a series which 
is finite, as with a series which is infinite. [In whatever 
other respects they may differ, in this they do not. In 
all equally, contrivance and design are unaccounted 
for. 7 

The question is not simply, How came the first 
watch into existence? which question, it maybe pre- 
tended, is done away by supposing the series of watches 
thus produced from one another to have been infinite, 
and consequently to have had no such first, for which 
it was necessary to provide a cause. This, perhaps, 
would have been nearly the state of the question, if 
nothing had been before us but an unorganised, unme- 
chanised substance, without mark or indication of con- 
trivance. It might be difficult to show that such sub- 
stance could not have existed from eternity, either in 
succession (if it were possible, which I think it is not, 
for unorganised bodies to spring from one another), or 
by individual perpetuity. But that is not the question 
now. [To suppose it to be so, is to suppose that it made 
no difference whether he had found a watch or a stone. 
As it is, the metaphysics of that question have no place ; 
for, in the watch which we are examining, are seen con- 
trivance, design; an end, a purpose; means for the end, 
adaptation to the purpose. And the question which 
irresistibly presses upon our thoughts, is, Whence this 
contrivance and design ? The thing required is the in- 


tendingmind, the adapted hand, the intelligence by which 
that hand was directed. Zj This question, this demand, 
is not shaken off, by increasing a number or succession 
of substances, destitute of these properties; nor the 
more, by increasing that number to infinity. If it be said, 
that, upon the supposition of one watch being produced 
from another in the course of that other's movements* 
and by means of the mechanism within it, we have a 
cause for the watch in my hand, viz. the watch from 
which it proceeded : I deny, that for the design, the 
contrivance, the suitableness of means to an end, the 
adaptation of instruments to a use (all which we discover 
in the watch), we have any cause whatever. It is in 
vain, therefore, to assign a series of such causes, or to 
allege that a series may be carried back to infinity; for 
I do not admit that we have yet any cause at all of the 
phenomena, still less any series of causes either finite or 
infinite. Here is contrivance, but no contriver; proofs 
of design, but no designer. 

V. Our observer would farther also reflect, that the 
maker of the watch before him was, in truth and reality, 
the maker of every watch produced from it : there being 
no difference (except that the latter manifests a more 
exquisite skill) between the making of another watch 
with his own hands, by the mediation of files, lathes, 
chisels, &c. and the disposing, fixing, and inserting of 
these instruments, or of others equivalent to them, in 
the body of the watch already made in such a manner, 
as to form a new watch in the course of the movements 
which he had given to the old one. It is only working 
by one set of tools, instead of another. 

The conclusion which the first examination of the 
watch, of its works, construction, and movement, 
suggested, was, that it must have had, for the cause 


and author of that construction, an artificer, who un- 
derstood its mechanism, and designed its use. This 
conclusion is invincible. A second examination pre- 
sents us with a new discovery. [The watch is found, in 
^ % the course of its movement, to produce another watch, 
^ similar to itself; and not only so, but we perceive in it 
a system or organisation, separately calculated for that 
purpose77 What effect would this discovery have, or 
ought it to have, upon our former inference? What, 
as hath already been said, but to increase, beyond mea- 
sure, our admiration of the skill, which had been em- 
ployed in the formation of such a machine? Or shall 
it, instead of this, all at once turn us round to an 
opposite conclusion, viz. that no art or skill whatever 
has been concerned in the business, although all other 
t evidences of art and skill remain as they were, and this 
last and supreme piece of art be now added to the rest? 
Can this be maintained without absurdity? ^Yet this is 
atheism. V' 



,0 ' I This is atheism : for every indication of contrivance, 
every manifestation of design, which existed in the 
watch, exists in the works of natureTTwith the difference, 
^ on the side of nature, of being greater and more, and 
** that in a degree which exceeds all computational 
mean that the contrivances of nature surpass the con- 
trivances of art, in the complexity, subtilty, and cu- 
riosity of the mechanism; and still more, if possible, 
do they go beyond them in number and variety; yet, 



in a multitude of cases, are not less evidently mechanical, 
not less evidently contrivances, not less evidently ac- 
commodated to their end, or suited to their office, than 
are the most perfect productions of human ingenuity!! 
I know no better method of introducing so large a sub- 
ject, tha n tha t of comparing a single thi ng with a single 
thing fu5 eye Jfor example, TOtK a telescopy As far as the 
-i "* examination of the instrumentgoes, there is precisely the 
>s r same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is 
that the telescope was made for assisting it. They are 
tj$**s made upon the same principles ; both being adjusted to 
r>3F the laws by which the transmission and refraction of 
r\ rays of light are regulated. I speak not of the origin of 
the laws themselves; but such laws being fixed, the 
construction, in both cases, is adapted to them. For 
instance; these laws require, in order to produce the 
same effect, that the rays of light, in passing from water 
into the eye, should be refracted by a more convex sur- 
face, than when it passes out of air into the eye. Ac- 
cordingly we find that the eye of a fish, in that part of 
it called the crystalline lens, is much rounder than the 
eye of terrestrial animals. What plainer manifestation 
of design can there be than this difference? What 
could a mathematical instrument-maker have done more 
to show his knowledge of his principle, his application 
of that knowledge, his suiting of his means to his end; 
I will not say to display the compass or excellence of 
his skill and art, for in these all comparison is in- 
decorous, but to testify counsel, choice, consideration, 

To some it may appear a difference sufficient to de- 
stroy all similitude between the eye and the telescope, 
that the one is a perceiving organ, the other an unper- 
ceiving instrument. The fact is, that they are both 


instruments. And, as to the mechanism, at least as to 
mechanism being employed, and even as to the kind of 
it, this circumstance varies not the analogy at all. For 
observe, what the constitution of the eye is. It is ne- 
cessary, in order to produce distinct vision, that an 
image or picture of the object be formed at the bottom 
of the eye. Whence this necessity arises, or how the 
picture is connected with the sensation, or contributes 
to it, it may be difficult, nay, we will confess, if you 
please, impossible for us to search out. But the pre- 
sent question is not concerned in the inquiry. It may 
be true, that, in this, and in other instances, we trace 
mechanical contrivance a certain way; and that then 
we come to something which is not mechanical, or 
which is inscrutable. But this affects not the certainty 
of our investigation, as far as we have gone. The dif- 
ference between an animal and an automatic statue con- 
sists in this, — that, in the animal, we trace the mechanism 
to a certain point, and then we are stopped ; either the 
mechanism becoming too subtile for our discernment, 
or something else beside the known laws of mechanism 
taking place ; whereas, in the automaton, for the com- 
paratively few motions of which it is capable, we trace 
the mechanism throughout. But, up to the limit, the 
reasoning is as clear and certain in the one case, as in 
the other. ( In the example before us, it is a matter of 
certainty, because it is a matter which experience and 
observation demonstrate, that the formation of an image 
at the bottom of the eye is necessary to perfect vision. 
The image itself can be shown. Whatever affects the 
distinctness of the image, affects the distinctness of the 
vision. The formation then of such an image being 
necessary (no matter how) to the sense of sight, and 
to the exercise of that sense, the apparatus by which it 



is formed is constructed and put together, not only 
with infinitely more art, but upon the self-same prin- 
ciples of art, as in the telescope or the camera-obscura*!) 
The perception arising from the image may be laid out 
of the question; for the production of the image, these 
are instruments of the same kind. The end is the 
same; the means are the same. The purpose in both 
is alike ; the contrivance for accomplishing that purpose 
is in both alike. The lenses of the telescopes, and the 
humours of the eye, bear a complete resemblance to one 
another, in their figure, their position, and in their 
power over the rays of light, viz. in bringing each 
pencil to a point at the right distance from the lens; 
namely, in the eye, at the exact place where the mem- 
brane is spread to receive it. [How is it possible, under 
circumstances of such close affinity, and under the ope- 
ration of equal evidence, to exclude contrivance from 
the one; yet to acknowledge the proof of contrivance 
having been employed, as the plainest and clearest of 
all propositions, in the otherPJ 

The resemblance between the two cases is still more 
accurate, and obtains in more points than we have yet 
represented, or than we are, on the first view of the 
subject, aware of. In dioptric telescopes there is an 
imperfection of this nature. Pencils of light, in passing 
through glass lenses, are separated into different co- 
lours, thereby tinging the object, especially the edges 
of it, as if it were viewed through a prism. To correct 
this inconvenience, had been long a desideratum in the 
art. At last it came into the mind of a sagacious op- 
tician, to inquire how this matter was managed in the 
eye; in which, there was exactly the same difficulty to 
contend with, as in the telescope. His observation 
taught him, that, in the eye, the evil was cured by 


combining lenses composed of different substances, 

i. e. of substances which possessed different refracting 

< powers. Our artist borrowed thence his hint; and 

S^ produced a correction of the defect by imitating, in 

J , glasses made from different materials, the effects of the 

|^ ^- different humours through which the rays of light pass 

* ^^Mp De f° re tne y reach the bottom of the eye. Could this 

jf U be in the eye without purpose, which suggested to 

?^ ? the optician the only effectual means of attaining that 

/k5? purpose? 

\ But farther; there are other points, not so much 

\jr perhaps of strict resemblance between the two, as of 
^superiority of the eye over the telescope ; yet of a su- 
periority which, being founded in the laws that regu- 
late both, may furnish topics of fair and just compari- 
son. Two things were wanted to the eye, which were 
not wanted (at least in the same degree) to the tele- 
scope; and these were the adaptation of the organ, 
first, to different degrees of light; and secondly, to the 
vast diversity of distance at which objects are viewed by 
the naked eye, viz. from a few inches to as many miles. 
These difficulties present not themselves to the maker 
of the telescope. He wants all the light he can get; 
and he never directs his instrument to objects near at 
hand. In the eye, both these cases were to be pro- 
vided for; and for the purpose of providing for them, 
a subtile and appropriate mechanism is introduced. 

I. In order to exclude excess of light, when it is 
excessive, and to render objects visible under obscurer 
degrees of it, when no more can be had, the hole or 
aperture in the eye, through which the light enters, is 
so formed, as to contract or dilate itself for the purpose 
of admitting a greater or less number of rays at the 
same time. The chamber of the eye is a camera-obscura, 


which, when the light is too small, can enlarge its open- 
ing; when too strong, can again contract it; and that 
without any other assistance than that of its own exquisite 
machinery. It is farther also, in the human subject, to 
be observed, that this hole in the eye, which we call the 
pupil, under all its different dimensions, retains its exact 
circular shape. This is a structure extremely arti- 
ficial. Let an artist only try to execute the same; he 
will find that his threads and strings must be disposed 
with great consideration and contrivance, to make a 
circle which shall continually change its diameter, yet 
preserve its form. This is done in the eye by an appli- 
cation of fibres, L e. of strings similar, in their position 
and action, to what an artist would and must employ, 
if he had the same piece of workmanship to perform. 

II. The second difficulty which has been stated, was 
the suiting of the same organ to the perception of ob- 
jects that lie near at hand, within a few inches, we will 
suppose, of the eye, and of objects which are placed at 
a considerable distance from it, that, for example, of as 
many furlongs (I speak in both cases of the distance at 
which distinct vision can be exercised). Now this, ac- 
cording to the principles of optics, that is, according to 
the laws by which the transmission of light is regulated 
(and these laws are fixed), could not be done without 
the organ itself undergoing an alteration, and receiving 
an adjustment, that might correspond with the exigency 
of the case, that is to say, with the different inclination 
to one another under which the rays of light reached 
it* Rays issuing from points placed at a small distance 
from the eye, and which consequently must enter the 
eye in a spreading or diverging order, cannot, by the 
same optical instrument in the same state, be brought 
to a point, i. e. be made to form an image, in the same 

VOL. IV. c 


place with rays proceeding from objects situated at a 
much greater distance, and which rays arrive at the eye 
in directions nearly (and physically speaking) parallel. 
It requires a rounder lens to do it. The point of con- 
course behind the lens must fall critically upon the 
retina, or the vision is confused j yet, other things re- 
maining the same, this point, by the immutable pro- 
perties of light, is carried farther back when the rays 
proceed from a near object, than when they are sent 
from one that is remote. A person who was using 
an optical instrument would manage this matter by 
changing, as the occasion required, his lens or his tele- 
scope ; or by adjusting the distance of his glasses with 
his hand or his screw : but how is this to be managed in 
the eye? What the alteration was, or in what part of 
the eye it took place, or by what means it was effected 
(for if the known laws which govern the refraction of 
light be maintained, some alteration in the state of the 
organ there must be), had long formed a subject of in- 
quiry and conjecture. The change, though sufficient 
for the purpose, is so minute as to elude ordinary ob- 
servation. Some very late discoveries, deduced from a 
laborious and most accurate inspection of the structure 
and operation of the organ, seem at length to have as- 
certained the mechanical alteration which the parts of 
the eye undergo. It is found, that by the action of 
certain muscles, called the straight muscles, and which 
action is the most advantageous that could be imagined 
for the purpose, — it is found, I say, that whenever the 
eye is directed to a near object, three changes are pro- 
duced in it at the same time, all severally contributing 
to the adjustment required. The cornea, or outermost 
coat of the eye, is rendered more round and prominent: 
the crystalline lens underneath is pushed forward ; and 


the axis of vision, as the depth of the eye is called, is 
elongated. These changes in the eye vary its power 
over the rays of light in such a manner and degree as 
to produce exactly the effect which is wanted, viz. the 
formation of an image upon the retina, whether the 
rays come to the eye in a state of divergency, which is 
the case when the object is near to the eye, or come 
parallel to one another, which is the case when the ob- 
ject is placed at a distance. ("Can any thing be more 
decisive of contrivance than this is ¥\ The most secret 
laws of optics must have been known to the author of 
a structure endowed with such a capacity of change. 
It is as though an optician, when he had a nearer object 
to view, should rectify his instrument by putting in 
another glass, at the same time drawing out also his 
tube to a different length. 

Observe a new-born child first lifting up its eyelids. 
What does the opening of the curtain discover ? The 
anterior part of two pellucid globes, which, when they 
come to be examined, are found to be constructed upon 
strict optical principles; the self-same principles upon 
which we ourselves construct optical instruments. We 
find them perfect for the purpose of forming an image 
by refraction; composed of parts executing different 
offices : one part having fulfilled its office upon the 
pencil of light, delivering it over to the action of an- 
other part ; that to a third, and so onward : the pro- 
gressive action depending for its success upon the nicest 
and minutest adjustment of the parts concerned: yet 
these parts so in fact adjusted, as to produce, not by a 
simple action or effect, but by a combination of actions 
and effects, the result which is ultimately wanted. And 
forasmuch as this organ would have to operate under 
different circumstances, with strong degrees of light 

c °Z 


and with weak degrees, upon near objects and upon 
remote ones, and these differences demanded, according 
to the laws by which the transmission of light is regu- 
lated, a corresponding diversity of structure ; that the 
aperture, for example, through which the light passes, 
should be larger or less; the lenses rounder or flatter, 
or that their distance from the tablet, upon which the 
picture is delineated, should be shortened or lengthened ; 
this, I say, being the case and the difficulty to which the 
eye was to be adapted, we find its several parts capable of 
being occasionally changed, and a most artificial apparatus 
provided to produce that change. ^This is far beyond 
the common regulator of a watchT] which requires the 
touch of a foreign hand to set it : but it is not altogether 
unlike Harrison's contrivance for making a watch re- 
gulate itself, by inserting within it a machinery, which, 
by the artful use of the different expansion of metals, 
preserves the equability of the motion under all the 
various temperatures of heat and cold in which the in- 
strument may happen to be placed. The ingenuity of 
this last contrivance has been justly praised. LjShall, 
therefore, a structure which differs from it chiefly by $/ 
surpassing it, be accounted no contrivance at all? or, if 
it be a contrivance, that it is without a contriver ?^> 

But this, though much, is not the whole : by different 
species of animals the faculty we are describing is pos- 
sessed, in degrees suited to the different range of vision 
which their mode of life, and of procuring their food, 
requires. Birds, for instance, in general, procure their 
food by means of their beak; and, the distance between 
the eye and the point of the beak being small, it be- 
comes necessary that they should have the power of 
seeing very near objects distinctly. On the other hand, 
from being often elevated much above the ground, living 


in the air, and moving through it with great velocity, 
they require for their safety, as well as for assisting 
them in descrying their prey, a power of seeing at a 
great distance; a power of which, in birds of rapine, 
surprising examples are given. The fact accordingly 
is, that two peculiarities are found in the eyes of birds, 
both tending to facilitate the change upon which the 
adjustment of the eye to different distances depends. 
The one is a bony, yet, in most species, a flexible rim 
or hoop, surrounding the broadest part of the eye; 
which, confining the action of the muscles to that part, 
increases the effect of their lateral pressure upon the 
orb, by which pressure its axis is elongated for the pur- 
pose of looking at very near objects. The other is an 
additional muscle, called the marsupium, to draw, on 
occasion, the crystalline lens back, and to fit the same 
eye for the viewing of very distant objects. By these 
means, the eyes of birds can pass from one extreme to 
another of their scale of adjustment, with more ease and 
readiness than the eyes of other animals. 

fThe eyes of fishes also, compared with those of ter- 
restrial animals, exhibit certain distinctions of structure, 
adapted to their state and element. We have already 
observed upon the figure of the crystalline compensating 
by its roundness the density of the medium through 
which their light passes. To which we have to add, 
that the eyes offish, in their natural and indolent state, 
appear to be adjusted to near objects, in this respect 
differing from the human eye, as well as those of qua- 
drupeds and birds. The ordinary shape of the fish's eye 
being in a much higher degree convex than that of land 
animals, a corresponding difference attends its muscular 
conformation, viz. that it is throughout calculated for 
flattening the eye. 


The iris also in the eyes of fish does not admit of 
contraction. This is a great difference, of which the 
probable reason is, that the diminished light in water is 
never too strong for the retina. 

In the eel, which has to work it head through sand 
and gravel, the roughest and harshest substances, there 
is placed before the eye, and at some distance from it, 
a transparent, horny, convex case or covering, which, 
without obstructing the sight, defends the organ. To 
such an animal, could any thing be more wanted or 
more useful? 

Thus, in comparing the eyes of different kinds of ani- 
mals, we see in their resemblances and distinctions, one 
general plan laid down, and that plan varied with the 
varying exigencies to which it is to be applied. 

There is one property however common, I believe, 
to all eyes, at least to all which have been examined*, 
namely, that the optic nerve enters the bottom of the 
eye, not in the centre or middle, but a little on one 
side : not in the point where the axis of the eye meets 
the retina, but between that point and the nose. The 
difference which this makes is, that no part of an ob- 
ject is unperceived by both eyes at the same time. 

In considering vision as achieved by the means of an 
image formed at the bottom of the eye, we can never 
reflect without wonder upon the smallness, yet correct- 
ness, of the picture, the subtilty of the touch, the fineness 
of the lines. A landscape of five or six square leagues 
is brought into a space of half an inch diameter ; yet the 
multitude of objects which it contains are all preserved, are 
all discriminated in their magnitudes, positions, figures, 
colours. The prospect from Hampstead-hill is com- 

* The eye of the seal or sea-calf, I understand, is an exception. 
Mem. Acad. Paris, 1701, p. 123. 


pressed into the compass of a sixpence, yet circumstan- 
tially represented. A stage coach, travelling at an or- 
dinary speed for half an hour, passes, in the eye, only 
over one-twelfth of an inch, yet is this change of place 
in the image distinctly perceived throughout its whole 
progress; for it is only by means of that perception 
that the motion of the coach itself is made sensible to 
the eye. If any thing can abate our admiration of the 
smallness of the visual tablet compared with the extent 
of vision, it is a reflection which the view of nature 
leads us every hour to make, viz. that, in the hands of 
the Creator, great and little are nothing. 

Sturmius held, that the examination of the eye was 
a cure for atheism. Besides that conformity to optical 
principles which its internal constitution displays, and 
which alone amounts to a manifestation of intelligence 
having been exerted in the structure; besides this, 
which forms, no doubt, the leading character of the 
organ, there is to be seen, in every thing belonging to 
it and about it, an extraordinary degree of care, an 
anxiety for its preservation, due, if we may so speak, to 
its value and its tenderness. It is lodged in a strong, 
deep, bony socket, composed by the junction of seven 
different bones*, hollowed out at their edges. In some 
few species, as that of the coatimondi t, the orbit is not 
bony throughout; but whenever this is the case, the 
upper, which is the deficient part, is supplied by a car- 
tilaginous ligament; a substitution which shows the 
same care. Within this socket it is imbedded in fat, of 
all animal substances the best adapted both to its repose 
and motion. It is sheltered by the eyebrows ; an arch 
of hair, which, like a thatched penthouse, prevents the 
sweat and moisture of the forehead from running down 
into it. 

* Heister, sect. 89. t Mem. R. Ac. Paris, p. 117- 


But it is still better protected by its lid. Of the su- 
perficial parts of the animal frame, I know none which, 
in its office and structure, is more deserving of atten- 
tion than the eyelid. It defends the eye ; it wipes it ; 
it closes it in sleep. [Are there, in any work of art 
whatever, purposes more evident than those which this 
organ fulfils? or an apparatus for executing those pur- 
poses more intelligible, more appropriate, or more me- 
chanical?] If it be overlooked by the observer of nature, 
it can only be because it is obvious and familiar. This 
is a tendency to be guarded against. We pass by the 
plainest instances, whilst we are exploring those which 
are rare and curious; by which conduct of the under- 
standing, we sometimes neglect the strongest observa- 
tions, being taken up with others, which, though more 
recondite and scientific, are, as solid arguments, en- 
titled to much less consideration. 

In order to keep the eye moist and clean (which 
qualities are necessary to its brightness and its use), a 
wash is constantly supplied by a secretion for the pur- 
pose; and the superfluous brine is conveyed to the 
nose through a perforation in the bone as large as a 
goose-quill. When once the fluid has entered the nose, 
it spreads itself upon the inside of the nostril, and is eva- 
porated by the current of warm air, which, in the course 
of respiration, is continually passing over it. Can any 
pipe or outlet, for carrying off the waste liquor from a 
dye-house or a distillery, be more mechanical than this 
is? It is easily perceived, that the eye must want 
moisture: but could the want of the eye generate the 
gland which produces the tear, or bore the hole by 
which it is discharged, — a hole through a bone? 

[it is observable, that this provision is not found in 
fish, — the element in which they live supplying a con- 
stant lotion to the eye.1 


It were, however, injustice to dismiss the eye as a 
piece of mechanism, without noticing that most exqui- 
site of all contrivances, the nictitating membrane^ which 
is found in the eyes of birds and of many quadrupeds. 
Its use is to sweep the eye, which it does in an instant ; 
to spread over it the lachrymal humour ; to defend it 
also from sudden injuries ; yet not totally, when drawn 
upon the pupil, to shut out the light. The commodious- 
ness with which it lies folded up in the upper corner 
of the eye, ready for use and action, and the quickness 
with which it executes its purpose, are properties known 
and obvious to every observer; but what is equally ad- 
mirable, though not quite so obvious, is the combination 
of two kinds of substance, muscular and elastic, and of 
two different kinds of action, by which the motion of 
this membrane is performed. It is not, as in ordinary 
cases, by the action of two antagonist muscles, one pull- 
ing forward, and the other backward, that a reciprocal 
change is effected ; but it is thus : The membrane itself 
is an elastic substance, capable of being drawn out by 
force like a piece of elastic gum, and by its own elasti- 
city returning, when the force is removed, to its former 
position. Such being its nature, in order to fit it up for 
its office, it is connected by a tendon or thread with a 
muscle in the back part of the eye: this tendon or 
thread, though strong, is so fine, as not to obstruct the 
sight, even when it passes across it; and the muscle 
itself, being placed in the hack part of the eye, derives 
from its situation the advantage, not only of being secure, 
but of being out of the way; which it would hardly 
have been in any position that could be assigned to it 
in the anterior part of the orb, where its function lies. 
When the muscle behind the eye contracts, the mem- 
brane, by means of the communicating thread, is in- 


stantly drawn over the fore-part of it. When the mus- 
cular contraction (which is a positive, and, most pro- 
bably, a voluntary effort) ceases to be exerted, the elas- 
ticity alone of the membrane brings it back again to its 
position *. Does not this, if any thing can do it, be- 
speak an artist, master of his work, acquainted with his 
materials? "Of a thousand other things," say the French 
Academicians, "we perceive not the contrivance, be- 
cause we understand them only by the effects, of which 
we know not the causes : but we here treat of a machine, 
all the parts whereof are visible; and which need only be 
looked upon, to discover the reasons of its motion and 
action f." 

fin the configuration of the muscle, which, though 
placed behind the eye, draws the nictitating membrane 
over the eye, there is, what the authors, just now quoted, 
deservedly call a marvellous mechanism/J I suppose 
this structure to be found in other animals; but, in the 
memoirs from which this account is taken, it is anato- 
mically demonstrated only in the cassowary. The 
muscle is passed through a loop formed by another 
muscle; and is there inflected, as if it were round a 
pulley. This is a peculiarity; and observe the advan- 
tage of it. A single muscle with a straight tendon, 
which is the common muscular form, would have been 
sufficient, if it had had power to draw far enough. But 
the contraction, necessary to draw the membrane over 
the whole eye, required a longer muscle than could lie 
straight at the bottom of the eye. Therefore, in order 
to have a greater length in a less compass, the cord of 

* Phil. Trans. 1796. 

f Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, by the Royal Aca- 
demy of Sciences at Paris, done into English, by order of the Royal 
Society, 1701, p. 249. 


the main muscle makes an angle. This, so far, answers 
the end; but, still farther, it makes an angle, not round 
a fixed pivot, but round a loop formed by another 
muscle, which second muscle, whenever it contracts, of 
course twitches the first muscle at the point of inflection, 
and thereby assists the action designed by both. 

One question may possibly have dwelt in the reader's 
mind during the perusal of these observations, namely, 
Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the 
faculty of vision at once f Why this circuitous percep- 
tion ; the ministry of so many means ; an element pro- 
vided for the purpose ; reflected from opaque substances, 
refracted through transparent ones ; and both according 
to precise laws; then, a complex organ, an intricate 
and artificial apparatus, in order, by the operation of 
this element, and in conformity with the restrictions 
of these laws, to produce an image upon a membrane 
communicating with the brain? Wherefore all this? 
W T hy make the difficulty in order to surmount it? If 
to perceive objects by some other mode than that of 
touch, or objects which lay out of the reach of that 
sense, were the thing proposed; could not a simple 
volition of the Creator have communicated the capacity? 
Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? 
^Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the 
refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, 
implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power. 
This question belongs to the other senses, as well as to 
sight ; to the general functions of animal life, as nutri- 
tion, secretion, respiration ; to the ceconomy of vege- 
tables; and indeed to almost all the operations of na- 
ture. The question, therefore, is of very wide extent; 


and .amongst other answers which may be given to it, 
besides reasons of which probably we are ignorant, one 
answer is this: It is only by the display of contrivance, 
that the existence, the agency, the wisdom of the Deity, 
could be testified to his rational creatures. HThis is the 
scale by which we ascend to all the knowledge of our 
Creator which we possess, so far as it depends upon the 
phenomena, or the works of nature. Take away this, 
and you take away from us every subject of observation, 
and ground of reasoning; I mean, as our rational facul- 
ties are formed at present. Whatever is done, God 
could have done without the intervention of instruments 
or means ; but it is in the construction of instruments, 
in the choice and adaptation of means, that a creative 
5 intelligence is seen. It is this which constitutes the 

\forder and beauty of the universef] God, therefore, has 
T5een pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and 
to work his ends within those limits. T he general laws 
of matter have perhaps the nature of these limits ; its 
inertia, its re-action; the laws which govern the com- 
munication of motion, the refraction and reflection of 
light, the constitution of fluids non-elastic and elastic, 
the transmission of sound through the latter; the laws 
of magnetism, of electricity ; and probably others, yet 
undiscovered^ These are general laws; and when a 
particular purpose is to be effected, it is not by making 
a new law, nor by the suspension of the old ones, nor 
by making them wind, and bend, and yield to the occa- 
sion (for nature with great steadiness adheres to and 
supports them) ; but it is, as we have seen in the eye, 
by the interposition of an apparatus, corresponding with 
these laws, and suited to the exigency which results 
from them, that the purpose is at length attained. As 
we have said, therefore, God prescribes limits to his 


power, that he may let in the exercise, and thereby ex- 
hibit demonstrations of his wisdom. For then, i. e. 
such laws and limitations being laid down, it is as though 
one Being should have fixed certain rules ; and, if we 
may so speak, provided certain materials; and, after- 
wards, have committed to another Being, out of these 
materials, and in subordination to these rules, the task 
of drawing forth a creation : a supposition which evi- 
dently leaves room, and induces indeed a necessity for 
contrivance. Nay, there may be many such agents, 
and many ranks of these. We do not advance this as 
a doctrine either of philosophy or of religion ; but we 
say that the subject may safely be represented under 
this view; because the Deity, acting himself by general 
laws, will have the same consequences upon our reason- 
ing, as if he had prescribed these laws to another. It 
has been said, that the problem of creation was, "at- 
traction and matter being given, to make a world out 
of them;" and, as above explained, this statement per- 
haps does not convey a false idea. 

£\*> ^&P* 
pWe have made choice of the eye as an instance upon 
which to rest the argument of this chapter. Some 
single example was to be proposed : and the eye offered 
itself under the advantage of admitting of a strict com- 
parison with optical instruments^ \JThe ear, it is pro- 
bable, is no less artificially and mechanically adapted to 
its office, than the eyeTJ But we know less about it : 
we do not so well understand the action, the use, or 
the mutual dependency of its internal parts. Its ge- 
neral form, however, both external and internal, is suf- 
ficient to show that it is an instrument adapted to the 
reception of sound; that is to say, already knowing 


that sound consists in pulses of the air, we perceive, in 
the structure of the air, a suitableness to receive im- 
pressions from this species of action, and to propagate 
these impressions to the brain. For of what does this 
structure consist? An external ear (the concha), cal- 
culated, like an ear trumpet, to catch and collect the 
pulses of which we have spoken ; in large quadrupeds, 
turning to the sound, and possessing a configuration, as 
well as motion, evidently fitted for the office : of a tube 
which leads into the head, lying at the root of this out- 
ward ear, the folds and sinuses thereof tending and 
conducting the air towards it : of a thin membrane, 
like the pelt of a drum, stretched across this passage 
upon a bony rim: of a chain of moveable, and infinitely 
curious, bones, forming a communication, and the only 
communication that can be observed, between the mem- 
brane last mentioned and the interior channels and re- 
cesses of the skull: of cavities, similar in shape and 
form to wind instruments of music, being spiral or por- 
tions of circles : of the eustachian tube, like the hole 
in a drum, to let the air pass freely into and out of the 
barrel of the ear, as the covering member vibrates, or 
as the temperature may be altered : the whole labyrinth 
hewn out of a rock ; that is, wrought into the substance 
of the hardest bone of the body. This assemblage 
of connected parts constitutes together an apparatus, 
plainly enough relative to the transmission of sound, 
or of the impulses received from sound, and only to be 
lamented in not being better understood. 

The communication within, formed by the small 
bones of the ear, is, to look upon, more like what we 
are accustomed to call machinery, than any thing I am 
acquainted with in animal bodies. It seems evidently 
designed to continue towards the sensorium the tremu- 


lous motions which are excited in the membrane of the 
tympanum, or what is better known by the name of the 
" drum of the ear." The compages of bones consists 
of four, which are so disposed, and so hinge upon one 
another, as that if the membrane, the drum of the ear, 
vibrate, all the four are put in motion together; and, 
by the result of their action, work the base of that 
which is the last in the series, upon an aperture which 
it closes, and upon which it plays, and which aperture 
opens into the tortuous canals that lead to the brain. 
This last bone of the four is called the stapes. The 
office of the drum of the ear is to spread out an ex- 
tended surface, capable of receiving the impressions of 
sound, and of being put by them into a state of vibra- 
tion. The office of the stapes is to repeat these vibra- 
tions. It is a repeating frigate, stationed more within 
the line. From which account of its action may be 
understood, how the sensation of sound will be excited, 
by any thing which communicates a vibratory motion 
to the stapes, though not, as in all ordinary cases, 
through the intervention of the membrana tympani. 
This is done by solid bodies applied to the bones of 
the skull, as by a metal bar holden at one end between 
the teeth, and touching at the other end a tremulous 
body. It likewise appears to be done, in a considerable 
degree, by the air itself, even when this membrane, the 
drum of the ear, is greatly damaged. Either in the 
natural or preternatural state of the organ, the use of 
the chain of bones is to propagate the impulse in a di- 
rection towards the brain, and to propagate it with the 
advantage of a lever; which advantage consists in in- 
creasing the force and strength of the vibration, and at 
the same time diminishing the space through which it 


oscillates ; both of which changes may augment or faci- 
litate the still deeper action of the auditory nerves. 

The benefit of the eustachian tube to the organ may 
be made out upon known pneumatic principles. Be- 
hind the drum of the ear is a second cavity, or barrel, 
called the tympanum. The eustachian tube is a slender 
pipe, but sufficient for the passage of air, leading from 
this cavity into the back part of the mouth. Now, it 
would not have done to have had a vacuum in this ca- 
vity ; for, in that case, the pressure of the atmosphere 
from without would have burst the membrane which 
covered it. Nor would it have done to have filled the 
cavity with lymph or any other secretion ; which would 
necessarily have obstructed, both the vibration of the 
membrane, and the play of the small bones. Nor, 
lastly, would it have done to have occupied the space 
with confined air, because the expansion of that air by 
heat, or its contraction by cold, would have distended 
or relaxed the covering membrane, in a degree incon- 
sistent with the purpose which it was assigned to exe- 
cute. The only remaining expedient, and that for 
which the eustachian tube serves, is to open to this 
cavity a communication with the external air. In one 
word; it exactly answers the purpose of the hole in a 

The membrana tympani itself, likewise, deserves all 
the examination which can be made of it. It is not 
found in the ears offish; which furnishes an additional 
proof of what indeed is indicated by every thing about 
it, that it is appropriated to the action of air, or of an 
elastic medium. It bears an obvious resemblance to 
the pelt or head of a drum, from which it takes its 
name. It resembles also a drum head in this principal 


property, that its use depends upon its tension. Ten- 
sion is the state essential to it. Now we know that, in 
a drum, the pelt is carried over a hoop, and braced as 
occasion requires, by the means of strings attached to 
its circumference. In the membrane of the ear, the 
same purpose is provided for, more simply, but not less 
mechanically, nor less successfully, by a different expe- 
dient, viz. by the end of a bone (the handle of the mal- 
leus) pressing upon its centre. It is only in very large 
animals that the texture of this membrane can be dis- 
cerned. In the Philosophical Transactions for the 
year 1800 (vol. i.), Mr. Everard Home has given some 
curious observations upon the ear, and the drum of the 
ear of an elephant. He discovered in it, what he calls 
a radiated muscle, that is, straight muscular fibres, pass- 
ing along the membrane from the circumference to the 
centre j from the bony rim which surrounds it towards 
the handle of the malleus to which the central part is 
attached. This muscle he supposes to be designed to 
bring the membrane into unison with different sounds ; 
but then he also discovered, that this muscle itself can- 
not act, unless the membrane be drawn to a stretch, 
and kept in a due state of tightness, by what may be 
called a foreign force, viz. the action of the muscles of 
the malleus. Supposing his explanation of the use of 
the parts to be just, our author is well founded in the 
reflection which he makes upon it: " that this mode of 
adapting the ear to different sounds, is one of the most 
beautiful applications of muscles in the body; the me- 
chanism is so simple, and the variety of effects so great" 
In another volume of the Transactions above referred 
to, and of the same year, two most curious cases are re- 
lated, of persons who retained the sense of hearing, not 
in a perfect, but in a very considerable degree, notwith- 



standing the almost total loss of the membrane we have 
been describing. In one of these cases, the use here 
assigned to that membrane, of modifying the impres- 
sions of sound by change of tension, was attempted to 
be supplied by straining the muscles of the outward ear. 
" The external ear," we are told, " had acquired a di- 
stinct motion upward and backward, which was observa- 
ble whenever the patient listened to any thing which 
he did not distinctly hear; when he was addressed in 
a whisper, the ear was seen immediately to move; when 
the tone of voice was louder, it then remained altoge- 
ther motionless." 

It appears probable, from both these cases, that a 
collateral, if not principal, use of the membrane, is to 
cover and protect the barrel of the ear which lies be- 
hind it. Both the patients suffered from cpld: one, 
" a great increase of deafness from catching cold;" 
the other, " very considerable pain from exposure to a 
stream of cold air." Bad effects therefore followed 
from this cavity being left open to the external air; 
yet, had the Author of nature shut it up by any other 
cover than what was capable, by its texture, of receiving 
vibrations from sound, and, by its connexion with 
the interior parts, of transmitting those vibrations to 
the brain, the use of the organ, so far as we can judge, 
must have been entirely obstructed. 



The generation of the animal no more accounts for 
the contrivance of the eye or ear, than, upon the sup- 


position stated in a preceding chapterfthe production 
of a watch, by the motion and mechanism of a former 
watcrD would account for the skill and attention evi- 
denced in the watch, so produced; than it would ac- 
count for the disposition of the wheels, the catching of 
their teeth, the relation of the several parts of the works 
to one another, and to their common end; for the suit- 
ableness of their forms and places to their offices, for 
their connexion, their operation, and the useful result 
of that operation, jl do insist most strenuously upon 
the correctness of this comparison H that it holds as to 
every mode of specific propagation ; {and that whatever 
was true of the watch, under the hypothesis above men- 
tioned, is true of plants and animals?) 

I. To begin with the fructification of plants. Can 
it be doubted but that the seed contains a particular 
organisation? Whether a latent plantule with the means 
of temporary nutrition, or whatever else it be, it en- 
closes an organisation suited to the germination of a 
new plant. Has the plant which produced the seed 
any thing more to do with that organisation, than the 
watch would have had to do with the structure of the 
watch which was produced in the course of its mecha- 
nical movement ? I mean, Has it any thing at all to do 
with the contrivance? [The maker and contriver of one 
watch, when he inserted within it a mechanism suited 
to the production of another watch, was, in truth, the 
maker and contriver of that other watchTj All the pro- 
perties of the new watch were to be referred to his 
agency: the design manifested in it, to his intention: 
the art, to him as the artist: the collocation of each 
part, to his placing: the action, effect, and use, to his 
counsel, intelligence, and workmanship. In producing 
it by the intervention of a former watch, he was only 

d 2 


working by one set of tools instead of another. So it 
is with the plant, and the seed produced by it. Can 
any distinction be assigned between the two cases ; be- 
tween the producing watch, and the producing plant ; 
both passive, unconscious substances; both, by the or- 
ganisation which was given to them, producing their 
like, without understanding or design; both, that is, 

II. From plants we may proceed to oviparous ani- 
mals: from seeds to eggs. Now I say, that the bird 
has the same concern in the formation of the egg which 
she lays, as the plant has in that of the seed which it 
drops ; and no other, nor greater. The internal con- 
stitution of the egg is as much a secret to the hen, as 
if the hen were inanimate. Her will cannot alter it, 
or change a single feather of the chick. She can nei- 
ther foresee nor determine of which sex her brood shall 
be, or how many of either : yet the thing produced 
shall be, from the first, very different in its make, ac- 
cording to the sex which it bears. So far, therefore, 
from adapting the means, she is not beforehand apprised 
of the effect. If there be concealed within that smooth 
shell a provision and a preparation for the production 
and nourishment of a new animal, they are not of her 
providing or preparing: if there be contrivance, it is 
none of hers. Although, therefore, there be the dif- 
ference of life and perceptivity between the animal and 
plant, it is a difference which enters not into the ac- 
count. It is a foreign circumstance. It is a difference 
of properties not employed. The animal function and 
the vegetable function are alike destitute of any design 
which can operate upon the form of the thing produced. 
The plant has no design in producing the seed, no 
comprehension of the nature or use of what it produces: 


the bird with respect to its egg, is not above the plant 
with respect to its seed. Neither the one nor the other 
bears that sort of relation to what proceeds from them, 
which a joiner does to the chair which he makes. Now a 
cause, which bears this relation to the effect, is what we 
want, in order to account for the suitableness of means 
to an end, the fitness and fitting of one thing to an- 
other ; and this cause the parent plant or animal does 
not supply. 

/it is farther observable concerning the propagation 
ofplants and animals, that the apparatus employed ex- 
hibits no resemblance to the thing produced; in this 
respect holding an analogy with instruments and tools 
of artT) The filaments, antherae, and stigmata of flowers, 
bear no more resemblance to the young plant, or even 
to the seed, which is formed by their intervention, than 
a chisel or a plane does to a table or chair. What then 
are the filaments, antherae, and stigmata of plants, but 
instruments strictly so called? 

III. We may advance from animals which bring 
forth eggs, to animals which bring forth their young 
alive; and of this latter class, from the lowest to the 
highest; from irrational to rational life, from brutes to 
the human species; without perceiving, as we proceed, 
any alteration whatever in the terms of the comparison. 
The rational animal does not produce its offspring with 
more certainty or success than the irrational animal : a 
man than a quadruped, a quadruped than a bird ; nor 
(for we may follow the gradation through its whole 
scale) a bird than a plant ; nor a plant than a watch, a 
piece of dead mechanism, would do, upon the supposi- 
tion which has already so often been repeated. Ra- 
tionality, therefore, has nothing to do in the business. 
If an account must be given of the contrivance which 


we observe; if it be demanded, whence arose either 
the contrivance by which the young animal is produced, 
or the contrivance manifested in the young animal itself, 
it is not from the reason of the parent that any such 
account can be drawn. He is the cause of his offspring, 
in the same sense as that in which a gardener is the 
cause of the tulip which grows upon his parterre, and 
in no other. We admire the flower; we examine the 
plant; we perceive the conduciveness of many of its 
parts to their end and office: we observe a provision 
for its nourishment, growth, protection, and fecundity ; 
but we never think of the gardener in all this. We attri- 
bute nothing of this to his agency ; yet it may still be true, 
that without the gardener, we should not have had the 
tulip: just so it is with the succession of animals even of 
the highest order. For the contrivance discovered in the 
structure of the thing produced, we want a contriver. 
The parent is not that contriver. His consciousness 
decides that question. He is in total ignorance why 
that which is produced took its present form rather than 
any other. It is for him only to be astonished, by the 
effect. We can no more look therefore to the intelli- 
gence of the parent animal for what we are in search 
of, a cause of relation, and of subserviency of parts to 
their use, which relation and subserviency we see in 
the procreated body, than we can refer the internal 
conformation of an acorn to the intelligence of the oak 
from which it dropped, or the structure of the watch 
to the intelligence of the watch which produced it; 
there being no difference, as far as argument is con- 
cerned, between an intelligence which is not exerted, 
and an intelligence which does not exist. 




Every observation which was made in our first chapter, 
concerning the watch, may be repeated with strict pro- 
priety, concerning the eye; concerning animals; con- 
cerning plants; concerning, indeed, all the organised 
parts of the works of nature. As, 

I. When we are inquiring simply after the existence 
of an intelligent Creator, imperfection, inaccuracy, lia- 
bility to disorder, occasional irregularities, may subsist 
in a considerable degree, without inducing any doubt 
into the question: just as a watch may frequently go 
wrong, seldom perhaps exactly right, may be faulty in 
some parts, defective in some, without the smallest 
ground of suspicion from thence arising that it was not 
a watch; not made; or not made for the purpose 
ascribed to it. When faults are pointed out, and when 
a question is started concerning the skill of the artist, 
or dexterity with which the work is executed, then in- 
deed, in order to defend these qualities from accusation, 
we must be able, either to expose some intractableness 
and imperfection in the materials, or point out some 
invincible difficulty in the execution, into which im- 
perfection and difficulty the matter of complaint may 
be resolved; or, if we cannot do this, we must adduce 
such specimens of consummate art and contrivance pro- 
ceeding from the same hand, as may convince the in- 
quirer of the existence, in the case before him, of im- 
pediments like those which we have mentioned, although, 
what from the nature of the case is very likely to hap- 
pen, they be unknown and unperceived by him. This 


we must do in order to vindicate the artist's skill, or, 
at least, the perfection of it ; as we must also judge 
of his intention, and of the provisions employed in ful- 
filling that intention, not from an instance in which they 
fail, but from the great plurality of instances in which 
they succeed. But, after all, these are different ques- 
tions from the question of the artist's existence: or, 
which is the same, whether the thing before us be a 
work of art or not ; and the questions ought always to 
be kept separate in the mind. So likewise it is in the 
works of nature. Irregularities and imperfections are 
of little or no weight in the consideration, when that 
consideration relates simply to the existence of a Creator. 
When the argument respects his attributes, they are of 
weight; but are then to be taken in conjunction (the 
attention is not to rest upon them, but they are to be 
taken in conjunction) with the unexceptionable evi- 
dences which we possess, of skill, power, and benevo- 
lence, displayed in other instances; which evidences 
may, in strength, number, and variety, be such, and 
may so overpower apparent blemishes, as to induce us, 
upon the most reasonable ground, to believe, that these 
last ought to be referred to some cause, though we be 
ignorant of it, other than defect of knowledge or of 
benevolence in the author. 

There may be also parts of plants and animals, 
ey were supposed to be of the watch, of which, in 
some instances, the operation, in others, the use, is un- 
known^ [T hese form different cases; for the operation 
may be unknown, yet the use be certain?] Thus it is 
with the lungs of animals. It does not, I think, appear, 
that we are acquainted with the action of the air upon 
the blood, or in what manner that action is communicated 
by the lungs : yet we find that a very short suspension 


of their office destroys the life of the animal. In this 
case, therefore, we may be said to know the use, nay we 
experience the necessity, lof the organ, though we be 
ignorant of its operationTj Nearly the same thing may be 
observed of what is called the lymphatic system. We 
suffer grievous inconveniences from its disorder, with- 
out being informed of the office which it sustains in the 
ceconomy of our bodies. [There may possibly also be 
v some few examples of the second class, in which not only 

<°)>t»J;he operation is unknown, but in which experiments 
may seem to prove that the part is not necessary; or 

nl /^ v may leave a doubt, how far it is even useful to the plant 
or animal in which it is found. This is said to be the 
case with the spleen; which has been extracted from 
dogs, without any sensible injury to their vital functions. 
Instances of the former kind, namely, in which we 
cannot explain the operation, may be numerous; for 
they will be so in proportion to our ignorance. They 
will be more or fewer to different persons, and in dif- 
ferent stages of science. Every improvement of know- 
ledge diminishes their number. There is hardly, perhaps, 
a year passes, that does not, in the works of nature, bring 
some operation, or some mode of operation, to light, 
jvhich was before undiscovered — probably unsuspected. 
[Instances of the second kind, namely, where the part 
appears to be totally useless, I believe to be extremely 
[are; compared with the number of those, of which the 
se is evident, they are beneath any assignable propor- 
tion ; and, perhaps, have been never submitted to a trial 
and examination sufficiently accurate, long enough con- 
tinued, or often enough repeated.^ No accounts which 
I have seen are satisfactory. The mutilated animal may 
live and grow fat (as was the case of the dog deprived 
of its spleen), yet may be defective in some other of its 



functions ; which, whether they can all, or in what degree 
of vigour and perfection, be performed, or how long pre- 
served, without the extirpated organ, does not seem to 
be ascertained by experiment. But to this case, even 
were it fully made out, may be applied the consideration 
which we suggested concerning the watch, viz. that these 
superfluous parts do not negative the reasoning which we 
instituted concerning those parts which are useful, and 
of which we know the use ; the indication of contrivance, 
with respect to them, remains as it was before. 

III. One atheistic way of replying to our observations 
upon the works of nature, and to the proofs of a Deity, 
which we think that we perceive in them, is to tell us, 
that all which we see must necessarily have had some 
form, and that it might as well be its present form as 
any other. Let us now apply this answer to the eye, 
as we did before to the watch. Something or other 
must have occupied that place in the animal's head; 
must have filled up, we will say, that socket : we will say 
also, that it must have been of that sort of substance 
which we call animal substance, as flesh, bone, mem- 
brane, or cartilage, &c. But that it should have been 
an eye, knowing as we do what an eye comprehends, — 
viz. that it should have consisted, first, of a series of 
transparent lenses (very different, by-the-by, even in 
their substance, from the opaque materials of which the 
rest of the body is, in general at least, composed ; and 
with which the whole of its surface, this single portion 
of it excepted, is covered): secondly, of a black cloth or 
canvas (the only membrane of the body which is black) 
spread out behind these lenses, so as to receive the image 
formed by pencils of light transmitted through them ; 
and placed at the precise geometrical distance, at which, 
and at which alone, a distinct image could be formed, 


namely, at the concourse of the refracted rays: thirdly, 
of a large nerve communicating between this membrane 
and the brain ; without which, the action of light upon 
the membrane, however modified by the organ, would 
be lost to the purposes of sensation : — that this fortunate 
conformation of parts should have been the lot, not of 
one individual out of many thousand individuals, like 
the great prize in a lottery, or like some singularity in 
nature, but the happy chance of a whole species: nor of 
one species out of many thousand species, with which 
we are acquainted, but of by far the greatest number of 
all that exist ; and that under varieties, not casual or 
capricious, but bearing marks of being suited to their 
respective exigencies: — that all this should have taken 
place, merely because something must have occupied 
these points on every animal's forehead; — or, that all 
this should be thought to be accounted for, by the short 
answer, " that whatever was there must have had some 
form or other," is too absurd to be made more so by 
any augmentation. We are not contented with this 
answer; we find no satisfaction in it, by way of ac- 
counting for appearances of organisation far short of 
those of the eye, such as we observe in fossil shells, pe- 
trified bones, or other substances which bear the vestiges 
of animal or vegetable recrements, but which, either in 
respect to utility, or of the situation in which they are 
discovered, may seem accidental enough. It is no way 
of accounting even for these things, to say, that the 
stone, for instance, which is shown to us (supposing the 
question to be concerning a petrification), must have con- 
tained some internal conformation or other. Nor does 
it mend the answer to add, with respect to the singu- 
larity of the conformation, that after the event, it is no 
longer to be computed what the chances were against 



it. This is always to be computed when the question 
is, whether a useful or imitative conformation be the 
produce of chance, or not : fl[ desire npereater certainty 
in reasoning, than that by which vqhanc^ is excluded 
from the present disposition of the natural world. Uni- 
versal experience is against it. What does chance ever 
do for us? In the human body, for instance, chance, 
i. e. the operation of causes without design, may produce 
a wen, a wart, a mole, a pimple, but never an eye. 
Amongst inanimate substances, a clod, a pebble, a liquid 
drop, might be ; but never was a watch, a telescope, an 
organised body of any kind, answering a valuable pur- 
pose by a< gpmpfeaUid Muufianisj ffo the effect of chance. 
In no assignable instance hath such a thing existed 
ithout intention somewhereTJ 

IV. There is another answer which has the same 
effect as the resolving of things into chance ; which 
answer would persuade us to believe, that the eye, the 
animal to which it belongs, every other animal, every 
plant, indeed, every organised body which we see, are 
only so many out of the possible varieties and com- 
binations of being, which the lapse of infinite ages has 
brought into existence; that the present world is the 
relic of that variety; millions of other bodily forms and 
other species having perished, being by the defect of 
their constitution incapable of preservation, or of con- 
tinuance by generation. Now there is no foundation 
whatever for this conjecture in any thing which we 
observe in the works of nature ; no such experiments 
are going on at present; no such energy operates, as 
that which is here supposed, and which should be con- 
stantly pushing into existence new varieties of beings. 
Nor are there any appearances to support an opinion, 
that every possible combination of vegetable or animal 


* yn 


structure has formerly been tried. Multitudes of con- 
formations, both of vegetables and animals, may be con- 
ceived capable of existence and succession, which yet do 
not exist. Perhaps almost as many forms of plants 
might have been found in the fields, as figures of plants 
can be delineated upon paper. A countless variety of 
animals might have existed, which do not exist. Upon 
the supposition here stated, we should see unicorns and 
mermaids, sylphs and centaurs, the fancies of painters, 
and the fables of poets, realised by examples. Or, if it 
be alleged that these may transgress the bounds of pos- 
sible life and propagation, we might, at least, have na- 
tions of human beings without nails upon their fingers, 
with more or fewer fingers and toes than ten, some with 
one eye, others with one ear, with one nostril, or with- 
out the sense of smelling at all. All these, and a 
thousand other imaginable varieties, might live and pro- 
pagate. We may modify any one species many different 
ways, all consistent with life, and with the actions ne- 
cessary to preservation, although affording different 
degrees of conveniency and enjoyment to the animal. 
And if we carry these modifications through the dif- 
ferent species which are known to subsist, their number 
would be incalculable. No reason can be given why, if 
these deperdits ever existed, they have now disappeared. 
Yet, if all possible existences have been tried, they must 
have formed part of the catalogue. 

But, moreover, the division of organised substances 
into animals and vegetables, and the distribution and yj9^ 
sub-distribution of each intofgenera and species] whicJwsT 
distribution is not an arbitrary act of the mincD but 
founded in the order which prevails in external nature, 
appear to me to contradict the supposition of the present 
world being the remains of an indefinite variety of 


existences; of a variety which rejects all plan. The 
hypothesis teaches, that every possible variety of being 
hath, at one time or other, found its way into existence 
(by what cause or in what manner is not said), and that 
those which were badly formed, perished ; but how or 
why those which survived should be cast, as we see that 
plants and animals are cast, into regular classes, the 
hypothesis does not explain; or rather the hypothesis 
is inconsistent with this phenomenon. 

The hypothesis, indeed, is hardly deserving of the 
consideration which we have given to it. What should 
we think of a man who, because we had never ourselves 
seen watches, telescopes, stocking-mills, steam-engines, 
&c. made, knew not how they were made, nor could 
prove by testimony when they were made, or by whom, 
— would have us believe that these machines, instead of 
deriving their curious structures from the thought and 
design of their inventors and contrivers, in truth derive 
them from no other origin than this; viz. that a mass 
of metals and other materials having run when melted 
into all possible figures, and combined themselves in all 
possible forms, and shapes, and proportions, these things 
which we see, are what were left from the accident, as 
best worth preserving; and, as such, are become the 
remaining stock of a magazine, which, at one time or 
other, has by this means contained every mechanism, 
useful and useless, convenient and inconvenient, into 
which such like materials could be thrown ? I cannot 
distinguish the hypothesis as applied to the works of 
nature, from this solution, which no one would accept, 
as applied to a collection of machines. 

V. To the marks of contrivance discoverable in ani- 
mal bodies, and to the argument deduced from them, in 
proof of design, and of a designing Creator, this turn is 


sometimes attempted to be given, namely, that the parts 
were not intended for the use, but that the use arose 
out of the parts. This distinction is intelligible. A 
cabinet-maker rubs his mahogany with fish-skin ; yet it 
would be too much to assert that the skin of the dog- 
fish was made rough and granulated on purpose for 
the polishing of wood, and the use of cabinet-makers. 
Therefore the distinction is intelligible. But I think 
that there is very little place for it in the works of 
nature. When roundly and generally affirmed of them, 
as it hath sometimes been, it amounts to such another 
stretch of assertion, as it would be to say, that all the 
implements of the cabinet-maker's work-shop, as well as 
his fish- skin, were substances accidentally configurated, 
which he had picked up, and converted to his use ; that 
his adzes, saws, planes, and gimlets, were not made, as 
we suppose, to hew, cut, smooth, shape out, or bore 
wood with; but that, these things being made, no matter 
with what design, or whether with any, the cabinet- 
maker perceived that they were applicable to his pur- 
pose, and turned them to account. 

But, again. So far as this solution is attempted to be 
applied to those parts of animals the action of which 
does not depend upon the will of the animal, it is fraught 
with still more evident absurdity. Is it possible to be- 
lieve that the eye was formed without any regard to 
vision ; that it was the animal itself which found out, that, 
though formed with no such intention, it would serve 
to see with ; and that the use of the eye, as an organ of 
sight, resulted from this discovery, and the animal's 
application of it ? The same question may be asked of 
the ear; the same of all the senses. None of the senses 
fundamentally depend upon the election of the animal; 
consequently neither upon his sagacity, nor his expe- 


rience. It is the impression which objects make upon 
them, that constitutes their use. Under that impres- 
sion, he is passive. He may bring objects to the sense, 
or within its reach ; he may select these objects ; but 
over the impression itself he has no power, or very little ; 
and that properly is the sense. 

Secondly; there are many parts of animal bodies 
which seem to depend upon the will of the animal in a 
greater degree than the senses do, and yet with respect 
to which, this solution is equally unsatisfactory. If we 
apply the solution to the human body, for instance, it 
forms itself into questions, upon which no reasonable 
mind can doubt ; such as, whether the teeth were made 
expressly for the mastication of food, the feet for walk- 
ing, the hands for holding? or whether, these things 
being as they are, being in fact in the animal's posses- 
sion, his own ingenuity taught him that they were con- 
vertible to these purposes, though no such purposes 
were contemplated in their formation? 

All that there is of the appearance of reason in this 
way of considering the subject is, that in some cases the 
organisation seems to determine the habits of the ani- 
mal, and its choice to a particular mode of life ; which, 
in a certain sense, may be called " the use arising out 
of the part." Now to all the instances, in which there 
is any place for this suggestion, it may be replied, that 
the organisation determines the animal to habits bene- 
ficial and salutary to itself; and that this effect would 
not be seen so regularly to follow, if the several or- 
ganisations did not bear a concerted and contrived re- 
lation to the substance by which the animal was sur- 
rounded. They would, otherwise, be capacities without 
objects; powers without employment. The web-foot 
determines, you say, the duck to swim ; but what would 


that avail, if there were no water to swim in? The 
strong, hooked bill, and sharp talons, of one species of 
bird, determine it to prey upon animals; the soft, 
straight bill, and weak claws of another species, deter- 
mine it to pick up > seeds: but neither determination 
could take effect in providing for the sustenance of the 
birds, if animal bodies and vegetable seeds did not lie 
within their reach. The peculiar conformation of the 
bill and tongue and claws of the woodpecker determines 
that bird to search for his food amongst the insects 
lodged behind the bark, or in the wood, of decayed 
trees; but what should this profit him, if there were no 
trees, no decayed trees, no insects lodged under their 
bark, or in their trunk? The proboscis with which the 
bee is furnished, determines him to seek for honey : but 
what would that signify, if flowers supplied none? Fa- 
culties thrown down upon animals at randoni, and with- 
out reference to the objects amidst which they are 
placed, would not produce to them the services and 
benefits which we see : and if there be that reference, 
then there is intention. 

Lastly; the solution fails entirely when applied to 
plants. The parts of plants answer their uses, without 
any concurrence from the will or choice of the plant. 

VI. Others have chosen to refer every thing to a 
principle of order in nature. A principle of order is 
the word: but what is meant by a principle of order, 
as different from an intelligent Creator, has not been 
explained either by definition or example; and, with- 
out such explanation, it should seem to be a mere sub- 
stitution of words for reasons, names for causes. Order 
itself is only the adaptation of means to an end: a prin- 
ciple of order therefore can only signify the mind and 
intention which so adapts them. Or, were it capable 

VOL. IV. £ 


of being explained in any other sense, is there any ex- 
perience, any analogy, to sustain it? Was a watch ever 
produced by a principle of order? and why might not 
a watch be so produced, as well as an eye? 

Farthermore, a principle of order, acting blindly and 
without choice, is negatived, by the observation, that 
order is not universal; which it would be, if it issued 
from a constant and necessary principle: nor indiscri- 
minate, which it would be, if it issued from an unintel- 
ligent principle. Where order is wanted, there we find 
it: where order is not wanted, i. e. where, if it prevailed, 
it would be useless, there we do not find it. In the 
structure of the eye (for we adhere to our example), 
in the figure and position of its several parts, the most 
exact order is maintained. In the forms of rocks and 
mountains, in the lines which bound the coasts of con- 
tinents and islands, in the shape of bays and promonto- 
ries, no order whatever is perceived, because it would 
have been superfluous. No useful purpose would have 
arisen from moulding rocks and mountains into regular 
solids, bounding the channel of the ocean by geome- 
trical curves; or from the map of the world resembling 
a table of diagrams in Euclid's Elements, or Simpson's 
Conic Sections. / 

VII. Lastly ; the confidence which we place in our 
observations upon the works of nature, in the marks 
which we discover of contrivance, choice, and design ; 
and in our reasoning upon the proofs afforded us; 
ought not to be shaken, as it is sometimes attempted 
to be done, by bringing forward to our view our own 
ignorance, or rather the general imperfection of our 
knowledge of nature. Nor, in many cases, ought this 
consideration to affect us, even when it respects some 
parts of the subject immediately under our notice. 


True fortitude of understanding consists in not suffer- 
ing what we know to be disturbed by what we do not 
know. If we perceive a useful end, and means adapted 
to that end, we perceive enough for our conclusion. If 
these things be clear, no matter what is obscure. The 
argument is finished. For instance; if the utility of 
vision to the animal which enjoys it, and the adaptation 
of the eye to this office, be evident and certain (and I 
can mention nothing which is more so), ought it to 
prejudice the inference which we draw from these pre- 
mises, that we cannot explain the use of the spleen? 
Nay, more : if there be parts of the eye, viz. the cor- 
nea, the crystalline, the retina, in their substance, 
figure, and position, manifestly suited to the formation 
of an image by the refraction of rays of light, at least, 
as manifestly as the glasses and tubes of a dioptric tele- 
scope are suited to that purpose; it concerns not the 
proof which these afford of design, and of a designer, 
that there may perhaps be other parts, certain muscles 
for instance, or nerves in the same eye, of the agency 
or effect of which we can give no account ; any more 
than we should be inclined to doubt, or ought to doubt 
about the construction of a telescope, viz. for what pur- 
pose it was constructed, or whether it were constructed 
at all, because there belonged to it certain screws and 
pins, the use or action of which we did not comprehend. 
I take it to be a general way of infusing doubts and 
scruples into the mind, to recur to its own ignorance, 
its own imbecility: to tell us that upon these subjects 
we know little; that little imperfectly; or rather, that 
we* know nothing properly about the matter. These 
suggestions so fall in with our consciousness, as some- 
times to produce a general distrust of our faculties and 
our conclusions. But this is an unfounded jealousy, 

e 2 


The uncertainty of one thing does not necessarily affect 
the certainty of another thing. Our ignorance of many 
points need not suspend our assurance of a few. Be- 
fore we yield, in any particular instance, to the scep- 
ticism which this sort of insinuation would induce, we 
ought accurately to ascertain, whether our ignorance or 
doubt concern those precise points upon which our con- 
clusion rests. Other points are nothing. Our ignor- 
ance of other points may be of no consequence to these, 
though they be points, in various respects, of great im- 
portance. A just reasoner removes from his considera- 
tion, not only what he knows, but what he does not 
know, touching matters not strictly connected with his 
argument, i. e. not forming the very steps of his de- 
duction : beyond these, his knowledge and his ignorance 
are alike relative. 



Were there no example in the world, of contrivance, 
except that of Xkygfeyp; it would be alone sufficient to 
support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to 
the necessity of an intelligent Creator. It could never 
be got rid of; because it could not be accounted for by 
any other supposition, which did not contradict all the 
principles we possess of knowledge ; the principles ac- 
cording to which, things do, as often as they can be 
brought to the test of experience, turn out to be true 
or false. Its coats and humours, constructed, as the 
lenses of a telescope are constructed, for the refraction 
of rays of light to a point, which forms the proper ac- 
tion of the organ ; the provision in its muscular tendons 


for turning its pupil to the object, similar to that which 
is given to the telescope by screws, and upon which 
power of direction in the eye, the exercise of its office 
as an optical instrument depends ; the farther provision 
for its defence, for its constant lubricity and moisture, 
which we see in its socket and its lids, in its gland for 
the secretion of the matter of tears, its outlet or com- 
munication with the nose for carrying off the liquid 
after the eye is washed with it ; these provisions com- 
pose altogether an apparatus, a system of parts, a pre- 
paration of means, so manifest in their design, so ex- 
quisite in their contrivance, so successful in their issue, 
so precious, and so infinitely beneficial in their use, as, 
in my opinion, to bear down all doubt that can be 
raised upon the subject. And what I wish, under the 
title of the present chapter, to observe, is, that if other 
parts of nature were inaccessible to our inquiries, or 
even if other parts of nature presented nothing to our 
examination but disorder and confusion, the validity of 
this example would remain the same. If there were 
but one watch in the world, it would not be less certain 
that it had a maker. If we had never in our lives seen 
any but one single kind of hydraulic machine, yet, if 
of that one kind we understood the mechanism and use, 
we should be as perfectly assured that it proceeded from 
the hand, and thought, and skill of a workman, as if 
we visited a museum of the arts, and saw collected there 
twenty different kinds of machines for drawing water, 
or a thousand different kinds for other purposes.f" Of j£f 
this point, each machine is a proof independently of all 
the rest. So it is with the evidences of a Divine agency?) * 
The proof is not a conclusion which lies at the end or 
a chain of reasoning, of which chain each instance of 
contrivance is only a link, and of which, if one link fail, 




(the whole falls; but it is an argument separately sup- 
plied by every separate example/] An error in stating 
an example, affects only that example. (The argument 
is cumulative, in the fullest sense of that term."! \The 
eye proves it without the ear ; the ear without the eye. 
The proof in each example is complete ; for when the 
design of the part, and the conduciveness of its struc- 
ture to that design is shown, the mind may set itself 
at rest ; no future consideration can detract any thing 
from the force of the example. 



It is not that every part of an animal or vegetable 
has not proceeded from a contriving mind; or that 
every part is not constructed with a view to its proper 
end and purpose, according to the laws belonging to, 
and governing the substance or the action made use of 
in that part; or that each part is not so constructed as 
to effectuate its purpose whilst it operates according to 
these laws ; but it is because these laws themselves are 
not in all cases equally understood; or, what amounts 
to nearly the same thing, are not equally exemplified 
in more simple processes, and more simple machines; 
that we lay down the distinction, here proposed, be- 
tween the mechanical parts of animals and vegetables. 

For instance: the principle of muscular motion, viz. 
upon what cause the swelling of the belly of the muscle, 
and consequent contraction of its tendons, either by an 
act of the will, or by involuntary irritation, depends, is 


wholly unknown to us. The substance employed, whe- 
ther it be fluid, gaseous, elastic, electrical, or none of 
these, or nothing resembling these, is also unknown to 
us : of course, the laws belonging to that substance, and 
which regulate its action, are unknown to us. We see 
nothing similar to this contraction in any machine which 
we can make, or any process which we can execute. So 
far (it is confessed) we are in ignorance, but no farther. 
This power and principle, from whatever cause it pro- 
ceeds, being assumed, the collocation of the fibres to 
receive the principle, the disposition of the muscles for 
the use and application of the power, is mechanical : 
and is as intelligible as the adjustment of the wires and 
strings by which a puppet is moved. We see, there- 
fore, as far as respects the subject before us, what is not 
mechanical in the animal frame, and what is. The 
nervous influence (for we are often obliged to give 
names to things which we know little about) — I say 
the nervous influence, by which the belly, or middle of 
the muscle, is swelled, is not mechanical. The utility 
of the effect we perceive ; the means, or the prepara- 
tion of means, by which it is produced, we do not. 
But obscurity as to the origin of muscular motion brings 
no doubtfulness into our observations, upon the sequel 
of the process. Which observations relate, 1st, to the 
constitution of the muscle; in consequence of which 
constitution, the swelling of the belly or middle part is 
necessarily and mechanically followed by a contraction 
of the tendons : 2dly, to the number and variety of the 
muscles and the corresponding number and variety of 
useful powers which they supply to the animal j which 
is astonishingly great: 3dly, to the judicious (if we 
may be permitted to use that term in speaking of the 
Author, or of the works, of nature), to the wise and 


well-contrived disposition of each muscle for its specific 
purpose ; for moving the joint this way, and that way, 
and the other way; for pulling and drawing the part, 
to which it is attached, in a determinate and particular 
direction ; which is a mechanical operation, exemplified 
in a multitude of instances. To mention only one: 
The tendon of the trochlear muscle of the eye, to the 
end that it may draw in the line required, is passed 
through a cartilaginous ring, at which it is reverted, 
exactly in the same manner as a rope in a ship is car- 
ried over a block or round a stay, in order to make it 
pull in the direction which is wanted. All this, as we 
have said, is mechanical ; and is as accessible to inspec- 
tion, as capable of being ascertained, as the mechanism 
of the automaton in the Strand. Supposing the auto- 
maton to be put in motion by a magnet (which is pro- 
bable), it will supply us with a comparison very apt for 
our present purpose. Of the magnetic effluvium, we 
know perhaps as little as we do of the nervous fluid. 
But, magnetic attraction being assumed (it signifies no- 
thing from what cause it proceeds), we can trace, or 
there can be pointed out to us, with perfect clearness 
and certainty, the mechanism, viz. the steel bars, the 
wheels, the joints, the wires, by which the motion so 
much admired is communicated to the fingers of the 
image: and to make any obscurity, or difficulty, or 
controversy in the doctrine of magnetism, an objection 
to our knowledge or our certainty, concerning the con- 
trivance, or the marks of contrivance, displayed in the 
automaton, would be exactly the same thing, as it is to 
make our ignorance (which we acknowledge) of the 
cause of nervous agency, or even of the substance and 
structure of the nerves themselves, a ground of question 
or suspicion as to the reasoning which we institute con- 


cerning the mechanical part of our frame. That an 
animal is a machine, is a proposition neither correctly 
true nor wholly false. The distinction which we have 
been discussing will serve to show how far the compari- 
son, which this expression implies, holds; and wherein 
it fails. And whether the distinction be thought of 
importance or not, it is certainly of importance to re- 
member, that there is neither truth nor justice in en- 
deavouring to bring a cloud over our understandings, 
or a distrust into our reasonings upon this subject, by 
suggesting that we know nothing of voluntary motion, 
of irritability, of the principle of life, of sensation, of 
animal heat, upon all which the animal functions de- 
pend ; for, our ignorance of these parts of the animal 
frame concerns not at all our knowledge of the mecha- 
nical parts of the same frame. I contend, therefore, 
that there is mechanism in animals; that this mecha- 
nism is as properly such, as it is in machines made by 
art; that this mechanism is intelligible and certain; 
that it is not the less so, because it often begins or ter- 
minates with something which is not mechanical ; that 
whenever it is intelligible and certain, it demonstrates 
intention and contrivance, as well in the works of na- 
ture, as in those of art ; and that it is the best demon- 
stration which either can afford. 

But whilst I contend for these propositions, I do not 
exclude myself from asserting, that there may be, and 
that there are, other cases, in which, although we can- 
not exhibit mechanism, or prove indeed that mechanism 
is employed, we want not sufficient evidence to conduct 
us to the same conclusion. 

[There is what may be called the chymical part of our 
frame ; of which, by reason of the imperfection of our 
chymistry, we can attain to no distinct knowledge j J 


mean, not to a knowledge, either in degree or kind, 
similar to that which we possess of the mechanical part 
of our frame. It does not, therefore, afford the same 
species of argument as that which mecnanlsm affcn 
,. and yet it may afford" an a rgument in a high degree 
satisfactory r~l The gastric juice, or the liquor which 
digests themod in the stomachs of animals, is of this 
class. Of all menstrua, it is the most active, the 
most universal. In the human stomach, for instance, 
consider what a variety of strange substances, and how 
widely different from one another, it, in a few hours, 
reduces to a uniform pulp, milk, or mucilage. It seizes 
upon every thing, it dissolves the texture of almost 
every thing, that comes in its way. The flesh of per- 
haps all animals; the seeds and fruits of the greatest 
number of plants ; the roots, and stalks, and leaves of 
many, hard and tough as they are, yield to its power- 
ful pervasion. The change wrought by it is different 
from any chymical solution which we can produce, or 
with which we are acquainted, in this respect as well as 
many others, that, in our chymistry, particular menstrua 
act only upon particular substances. Consider more- 
over that this fluid, stronger in its operation than a 
caustic alkali or mineral acid, than red precipitate, or 
aqua-fortis itself, is nevertheless as mild, and bland, 
and inoffensive to the touch or taste, as saliva or gum- 
water, which it much resembles. Consider, I say, these 
several properties of the digestive organ, and of the 
juice with which it is supplied, or rather with which it 
is made to supply itself, and you will confess it to be 
entitled to a name, which it has sometimes received, 
that of " the chymical wonder of animal nature." 

Still we are ignorant of the composition of this fluid, 
and of the mode of its action ; by which is meant that 


we are not capable, as we are in the mechanical part of 
our frame, of collating it with the operations of art. 
And this I call the imperfection of our chymistry ; for, 
should the time ever arrive, which is not perhaps to be 
despaired of, when we can compound ingredients, so as 
to form a solvent which will act in the manner in which 
the gastric juice acts, we may be able to ascertain the 
chymical principles upon which its efficacy depends, as 
well as from what part, and by what concoction, in the 
human body, these principles are generated and derived. 

In the mean time, ought that, which is in truth the 
defect of our chymistry, to hinder us from acquiescing 
in the inference, which a production of nature, by its 
place, its properties, its action, its surprising efficacy, 
its invaluable use, authorises us to draw in respect of a 
creative design? 

Another most subtile and curious function of animal 
bodies is secretion. This function is semi-chymical 
and semi-mechanical; exceedingly important and di- 
versified in its effects, but obscure in its process and in 
its apparatus. The importance of the secretory organs 
is but too well attested by the diseases, which an exces- 
sive, a deficient, or a vitiated secretion is almost sure of 
producing. A single secretion being wrong, is enough 
to make life miserable, or sometimes to destroy it. Nor 
is the variety less than the importance. From one and 
the same blood (I speak of the human body) about 
twenty different fluids are separated; in their sensible 
properties, in taste, smell, colour, and consistency, the 
most unlike one another that is possible; thick, thin, 
salt, bitter, sweet : and, if from our own we pass to 
other species of animals, we find amongst their secre- 
tions not only the most various, but the most opposite 
properties; the most nutritious aliment, the deadliest 


poison; the sweetest perfumes, the most foetid odours. 
Of these the greater part, as the gastric juice, the sa- 
liva, the bile, the slippery mucilage which lubricates the 
joints, the tears which moisten the eye, the wax which 
defends the ear, are, after they are secreted, made use 
of in the animal ©economy ; are evidently subservient, 
and are actually contributing, to the utilities of the 
animal itself. Other fluids seem to be separated only 
to be rejected. That this also is necessary (though 
why it was originally necessary, we cannot tell), is 
shown by the consequence of the separation being long 
suspended; which consequence is disease and death. 
Akin to secretion, if not the same thing, is assimilation, 
by which one and the same blood is converted into 
bone, muscular flesh, nerves, membranes, tendons; 
things as different as the wood and iron, canvas and 
cordage, of which a ship with its furniture is composed. 
We have no operation of art wherewith exactly to com- 
pare all this, for no other reason perhaps than that all 
operations of art are exceeded by it. No chymical 
election, no chymical analysis or resolution of a sub- 
stance into its constituent parts, no mechanical sifting 
or division, that we are acquainted with, in perfection 
or variety come up to animal secretion. Nevertheless, 
the apparatus and process are obscure; not to say ab- 
solutely concealed from our inquiries. In a few, and 
only a few instances, we can discern a little of the con- 
stitution of a gland. In the kidneys of large animals, 
we can trace the emulgent artery dividing itself into an 
infinite number of branches; their extremities every 
where communicating with little round bodies, in the 
substance of which bodies, the secret of the machinery 
seems to reside, for there the change is made. We can 
discern pipes laid from these round bodies towards the 


pelvis, which is a basin within the solid of the kidney. 
We can discern these pipes joining and collecting to- 
gether into larger pipes: and, when so collected, end- 
ing in innumerable papillae, through which the secreted 
fluid is continually oozing into its receptacle. This is 
all we know of the mechanism of a gland, even in the 
case in which it seems most capable of being investi- 
gated. Yet to pronounce that we know nothing of ani- 
mal secretion, or nothing satisfactorily, and with that 
concise remark to dismiss the article from our argument, 
would be to dispose of the subject very hastily and very 
irrationally. For the purpose which we want, that of 
evincing intention, we know a great deal. And what 
we know is this. We see the blood carried by a pipe, 
conduit, or duct, to the gland. We see an organised 
apparatus, be its construction or action what it will, 
which we call that gland. We see the blood, or part 
of the blood, after it has passed through and under- 
gone the action of the gland, coining from it by an 
emulgent vein or artery, i. e. by another pipe or con- 
duit. And we see also at the same time a new and 
specific fluid issuing from the same gland by its excre- 
tory duct, I. e. by a third pipe or conduit; which new 
fluid is in some cases discharged out of the body, in 
more cases retained within it, and there executing some 
important and intelligent office. Now supposing, or 
admitting, that we know nothing of the proper internal 
constitution of a gland, or of the mode of its acting 
upon the blood; then our situation is precisely like 
that of an unmechanical looker-on, who stands by a 
stocking-loom, a corn-mill, a carding-machine, or a 
thrashing-machine, at work, the fabric and mechanism 
of which, as w T ell as all that passes within, is hidden 
from his sight by the outside case; or, if seen, would 


be too complicated for his uninformed, uninstructed 
understanding to comprehend. And what is that situa- 
tion? This spectator, ignorant as he is, sees at one end 
a material enter the machine, as unground grain the 
mill, raw cotton the carding-machine, sheaves of un- 
thrashed corn the thrashing-machine; and, when he 
casts his eye to the other end of the apparatus, he sees 
the material issuing from it in a new state ; and, what 
is more, in a state manifestly adapted to future uses; 
the grain in meal fit for the making of bread, the wool 
in rovings ready for spinning into threads, the sheaf in 
corn dressed for the mill. Is it necessary that this 
man, in order to be convinced that design, that inten- 
tion, that contrivance has been employed about the 
machine, should be allowed to pull it to pieces; should 
be enabled to examine the parts separately; explore 
their action upon one another, or their operation, whe- 
ther simultaneous or successive, upon the material which 
is presented to them? He may long to do this to gra- 
tify his curiosity ; he may desire to do it to improve his 
theoretic knowledge ; or he may have a more substan- 
tial reason for requesting it, if he happen, instead of a 
common visitor, to be a millwright by profession, or a 
person sometimes called in to repair such-like machines 
when out of order ; but for the purpose of ascertaining 
the existence of counsel and design in the formation of 
the machine, he wants no such intromission or privity. 
What he sees, is sufficient. The effect upon the ma- 
terial, the change produced in it, the utility of that 
change for future applications, abundantly testify, be 
the concealed part of the machine or of its construction 
what it will, the hand and agency of a contriver. 

If any confirmation were wanting to the evidence 
which the animal secretions afford of design, it may be 


derived, as has been already hinted, from their variety, 
and from their appropriation to their place and use. 
They all come from the same blood; they are all drawn 
off' by glands; yet the produce is very different, and the 
difference exactly adapted to the work which is to be 
done, or the end to be answered. No account can be 
given of this, without resorting to appointment. Why, 
for instance, is the saliva, which is diffused over the 
seat of taste, insipid, whilst so many others of the secre- 
tions, the urine, the tears, and the sweat, are salt? Why 
does the gland within the ear separate a viscid substance, 
which defends that passage; the gland in the upper 
angle of the eye, a thin brine, which washes the ball? 
Why is the synovia of the joints mucilaginous; the bile 
bitter, stimulating, and soapy? Why does the juice, 
which flows into the stomach, contain powers, which 
make that bowel the great laboratory, as it is by its 
situation the recipient, of the materials of future nu- 
trition? These are all fair questions: and no answer 
can be given to them, but what calls in intelligence and 
J^ My object in the present chapter has been to tea ch 
three things i^lfrs^) that it is a mistake to suppose that, 
in reasoning from the appearances of nature, the imper- 
fection of our knowledge proportionably affects the cer- 
tainty of our conclusion ; for in many cases it does not 
affect it at all :<^^on3Iy^hat the different parts of the 
animal frame may be classed and distributed, according 
to the degree of exactness with which we compare them 
with works of art : thirdly, that the mechanical parts of 
our frame, or those in which this comparison is mos t 
complete, although constituting, probably^ the coarsest 
portions of nature's workmanship, are the most pro per 
to be alleged as proofs and specimens of design. 

m m wj gw m mm m» * * **>*x m *mm &nam ' Km mmimHm 




We proceed, therefore, to propose certain examples 
taken out of this class; making choice of such as, amongst 
those which have come to our knowledge, appear to be 
the most striking and the best understood ; but obliged, 
perhaps, to postpone both these recommendations to a 
third; that of the example being capable of explanation 
without plates, or figures, or technical language. 


I. — I challenge any man to produce in the joints and 
pivots of the most complicated or the most flexible ma- 
chine that was ever contrived, a construction more arti- 
ficial, or more evidently artificial, than that which is 
seen in the vertebrae of the human neck, — Two things 
were to be done. The head was to have the power of 
bending forward and backward, as in the act of nodding, 
stooping, looking upward or downward; and, at the 
same time, of turning itself round upon the body to a 
certain extent, the quadrant we will say, or rather, per- 
haps, a hundred-and-twenty degrees of a circle. For 
these two purposes, two distinct contrivances are em- 
ployed: First, the head rests immediately upon the 
uppermost part of the vertebrae, and is united to it by a 
hinge-joint ; upon which joint the head plays freely for- 
ward and backward, as far either way as is necessary, or 
as the ligaments allow; which was the first thing re- 
quired. — But then the rotatory motion is unprovided 
for : Therefore, secondly, to make the head capable of 
this, a farther mechanism is introduced ; not between 


the head and the uppermost bone of the neck, where 
the hinge is, but between that bone and the bone next 
underneath it. It is a mechanism resembling a tenon 
and mortice. This second, or uppermost bone but one, 
has what anatomists call a process, viz. a projection, 
somewhat similar, in size and shape, to a tooth ; which 
tooth, entering a corresponding hole or socket in the 
bone above it, forms a pivot or axle, upon which that 
upper bone, together with the head which it supports, 
turns freely in a circle ; and as far in the circle as the 
attached muscles permit the head to turn. Thus are 
both motions perfect without interfering with each other. 
When we nod the head, we use the hinge-joint, which 
lies between the head and the first bone of the neck. 
When we turn the head round, we use the tenon and 
mortice, which runs between the first bone of the neck 
and the second. We see the same contrivance and the 
same principle employed in the frame or mounting of a 
telescope. It is occasionally requisite, that the object- 
end of the instrument be moved up and down, as well 
as horizontally, or equatorially. For the vertical mo- 
tion, there is a hinge, upon which the telescope plays; 
for the horizontal or equatorial motion, an axis upon 
which the telescope and the hinge turn round together. 
And this is exactly the mechanism which is applied to 
the motion of the head : nor will any one here doubt of 
the existence of counsel and design, except it be by that 
debility of mind, which can trust to its own reasonings 
in nothing. 

We may add, that it was, on another account also, 
expedient, that the motion of the head backward and 
forward should be performed upon the upper surface of 
the first vertebra: for, if the first vertebra itself had bent 
forward, it would have brought the spinal marrow, at 



the very beginning of its course, upon the point of the 

II. Another mechanical contrivance, not unlike the 
last in its object, but different and original in its means, 
is seen in what anatomists call the fore-arm; that is, in 
the arm between the elbow and the wrist. Here, for 
the perfect use of the limb, two motions are wanted ; a 
motion at the elbow backward and forward, which is 
called a reciprocal motion ; and a rotatory motion, by 
which the palm of the hand, as occasion requires, may 
be turned upward. How is this managed? The fore- 
arm, it is well known, consists of two bones, lying along 
aside each other, but touching only towards the ends. 
One, and only one, of these bones, is joined to the cubit, 
or upper part of the arm, at the elbow; the other alone, 
to the hand at the wrist. The first, by means, at the 
elbow, of a hinge-joint (which allows only of motion in 
the same plane), swings backward and forward, carrying 
along with it the other bone, and the whole fore-arm. 
In the mean time, as often as there is occasion to turn 
the palm upward, that other bone to which the hand is 
attached, rolls upon the first, by the help of a groove or 
hollow near each end of one bone, to which is fitted a 
corresponding prominence in the other. If both bones 
had been joined to the cubit or upper arm, at the elbow, 
or both to the hand at the wrist, the thing could not 
have been done. The first was to be at liberty at one 
end, and the second at the other; by which means the 
two actions may be performed together. The great 
bone which carries the fore-arm, may be swinging upon 
its hinge at the elbow, at the very time that the lesser 
bone, which carries the hand, may be turning round it 
in the grooves. The management also of these grooves, 
or rather of the tubercles and grooves, is very ob- 


servable. The two bones are called the radius and the 
ulna. Above, i, e. towards the elbow, a tubercle of the 
radius plays into a socket of the ulna; whilst below, i. e. 
towards the wrist, the radius finds the socket, and the 
ulna the tubercle. A single bone in the fore-arm, with 
a ball and socket joint at the elbow, which admits of 
motion in all directions, might, in some degree, have 
answered the purpose of both moving the arm and turn- 
ing the hand. But how much better it is accomplished 
by the present mechanism, any person may convince 
himself, who puts the ease and quickness with which he 
can shake his hand at the wrist circularly (moving like- 
wise, if he pleases, his arm at the elbow at the same 
time), in competition with the comparatively slow and 
laborious motion, with which his arm can be made to 
turn round at the shoulder, by the aid of a ball and 
socket joint. 

III. The spine, or back-bone, is a chain of joints of 
very wonderful construction. Various, difficult, and 
almost inconsistent offices were to be executed by the 
same instrument. It was to be firm, yet flexible, (now 
I know no chain made by art, which is both these ; for 
by firmness I mean, not only strength, but stability) ; 
firm, to support the erect position of the body; flexible, 
to allow of the bending of the trunk in all degrees of 
curvature. It was farther also (which is another, and 
quite a distinct purpose from the rest) to become a pipe 
or conduit for the safe conveyance from the brain, of the 
most important fluid of the animal frame, that, namely, 
upon which all voluntary motion depends, the spinal 
marrow ; a substance not only of the first necessity to 
action, if not to life, but of a nature so delicate and 
tender, so susceptible and so impatient of injury, as that 
any unusual pressure upon it, or any considerable ob- 

f 2 


struction of its course, is followed by paralysis or death. 
Now the spine was not only to furnish the main trunk 
for the passage of the medullary substance from the 
brain, but to give out, in the course of its progress, 
small pipes therefrom, which, being afterwards inde- 
finitely subdivided, might, under the name of nerves, 
distribute this exquisite supply to every part of the body. 
The same spine was also to serve another use not less 
wanted than the preceding, viz. to afford a fulcrum, 
stay, or basis (or, more properly speaking, a series of 
these), for the insertion of the muscles which are spread 
over the trunk of the body ; in which trunk there are 
not, as in the limbs, cylindrical bones, to which they 
can be fastened: and likewise, which is a similar use, 
to furnish a support for the ends of the ribs to rest upon. 
Bespeak of a workman a piece of mechanism which 
shall comprise all these purposes, and let him set about 
to contrive it ; let him try his skill upon it ; let him feel 
the difficulty of accomplishing the task, before he be 
told how the same thing is effected in the animal frame. 
Nothing will enable him to judge so well of the wisdom 
which has been employed j nothing will dispose him to 
think of it so truly. First, for the firmness, yet flexibility, 
of the spine ; it is composed of a great number of bones 
(in the human subject, of twenty-four) joined to one 
another, and compacted by broad bases. The breadth 
of the bases upon which the parts severally rest, and the 
closeness of the junction, give to the chain its firmness 
and stability; the number of parts, and consequent fre- 
quency of joints, its flexibility. Which flexibility, we 
may also observe, varies in different parts of the chain ; 
is least in the back, where strength, more than flexure, 
is wanted : greater in the loins, which it was necessary 
should be more supple than the back ; and greatest of 


all in the neck, for the free motion of the head. Then, 
secondly, in order to afford a passage for the descent of 
the medullary substance, each of these bones is bored 
through in the middle in such a manner, as that, when 
put together, the hole in one bone falls into a line, and 
corresponds with the holes in the two bones contiguous 
to it. By which means, the perforated pieces, when 
joined, form an entire, close, uninterrupted channel ; at 
least, while the spine is upright, and at rest. But, as 
a settled posture is inconsistent with its use, a great 
difficulty still remained, which was to prevent the ver- 
tebrae shifting upon one another, so as to break the 
line of the canal as often as the body moves or twists : 
or the joints gaping externally, whenever the body is 
bent forward, and the spine thereupon made to take the 
form of a bow. These dangers, which are mechanical, 
are mechanically provided against. The vertebrae, by 
means of their processes and projections, and of the ar- 
ticulations which some of these form with one another 
at their extremities, are so locked in and confined, as to 
maintain, in what are called the bodies or broad sur- 
faces of the bones, the relative position nearly unaltered ; 
and to throw the change and the pressure, produced by 
flexion, almost entirely upon the intervening cartilages, 
the springiness and yielding nature of whose substance 
admits of all the motion which is necessary to be per- 
formed upon them, without any chasm being produced 
by a separation of the parts. I say, of all the motion 
which is necessary; for although we bend our backs to 
every degree almost of inclination, the motion of each 
vertebra is very small : such is the advantage we receive 
from the chain being composed of so many links, the 
spine of so many bones. Had it consisted of three or 
four bones only ; in bending the body, the spinal marrow 


must have been bruised at every angle. The reader 
need not be told, that these intervening cartilages are 
gristles; and he may see them in perfection in a loin 
of veal. Their form also favours the same intention. 
They are thicker before than behind ; so that, when we 
stoop forward, the compressible substance of the car- 
tilage, yielding in its thicker and anterior part to the 
force which squeezes it, brings the surface of the ad- 
joining vertebrae nearer to the being parallel with one 
another than they were before, instead of increasing 
the inclination of their planes, which must have occa- 
sioned a fissure or opening between them. Thirdly, 
for the medullary canal giving out in its course, and in 
a convenient order, a supply of nerves to different parts 
of the body, notches are made in the upper and lower 
edge of every vertebra; two on each edge; equidistant 
on each side from the middle line of the back. When 
the vertebras are put together, these notches, exactly 
fitting, form small holes, through which the nerves, at 
each articulation, issue out in pairs, in order to send 
their branches to every part of the body, and with an 
equal bounty to both sides of the body. The fourth 
purpose assigned to the same instrument, is the in- 
sertion of the bases of the muscles, and the support of 
the ends of the ribs; and for this fourth purpose, 
especially the former part of it, a figure, specifically 
suited to the design, and unnecessary for the other 
purposes, is given to the constituent bones. Whilst 
they are plain, and round, and smooth, towards the 
front, where any roughness or projection might have 
wounded the adjacent viscera, they run out, behind, 
and on each side, into long processes, to which pro- 
cesses the muscles necessary to the motions of the trunk 
are fixed ; and fixed with such art, that, whilst the ver- 


tebrae supply a basis for the muscles, the muscles help 
to keep these bones in their position, or by their tendons 
to tie them together. 

That most important, however, and general property, 
viz. the strength of the compages, and the security 
against luxation, was to be still more specially con- 
sulted: for, where so many joints were concerned, and 
where, in every one, derangement would have been 
fatal, it became a subject of studious precaution. For 
this purpose, the vertebrae are articulated, that is, the 
moveable joints between them are formed by means of 
those projections of their substance, which we have 
mentioned under the name of processes : and these so 
lock in with, and overwrap one another, as to secure 
the body of the vertebra, not only from accidentally 
slipping, but even from being pushed out of its place 
by any violence short of that which would break the 
bone. I have often remarked and admired this struc- 
ture in the chine of a hare. In this, as in many in- 
stances, a plain observer of the animal ceconomy may 
spare himself the disgust of being present at human 
dissections, and yet learn enough for his information 
and satisfaction, by even examining the bones of the 
animals which come upon his table. Let him take, for 
example, into his hands, a piece of the clean -picked 
bone of a hare's back; consisting, we will suppose, of 
three vertebra?. He will find the middle bone of the 
three so implicated, by means of its projections or pro- 
cesses, with the bone on each side of it, that no pressure 
which he can use, will force it out of its place between 
them. It will give way neither forward, nor backward, 
nor on either side. In whichever direction he pushes, 
he perceives, in the form, or junction, or overlapping of 
the bones, an impediment opposed to his attempt ; a 


check and guard against dislocation. In one part of 
the spine, he will find a still farther fortifying expedient, 
in the mode according to which the ribs are annexed to 
the spine. Each rib rests upon two vertebra?. That 
is the thing to be remarked, and any one may remark 
it in carving a neck of mutton. The manner of it is 
this : the end of the rib is divided by a middle ridge 
into two surfaces ; which surfaces are joined to the bodies 
of two contiguous vertebrae, the ridge applying itself 
to the intervening cartilage. Now this is the very con- 
trivance which is employed in the famous iron bridge at 
my door at Bishop-Wearmouth ; and for the same pur- 
pose of stability ; viz. the cheeks of the bars, which pass 
between the arches, ride across the joints, by which the 
pieces composing each arch are united. Each cross- 
bar rests upon two of these pieces at their place of 
junction: and by that position resists, at least in one 
direction, any tendency in either piece to slip out of its 
place. Thus perfectly, by one means or the other, is 
the danger of slipping laterally, or of being drawn aside 
out of the line of the back, provided against : and, to 
withstand the bones being pulled asunder longitudinally, 
or in the direction of that line, a strong membrane 
runs from one end of the chain to the other, sufficient 
to resist any force which is ever likely to act in the di- 
rection of the back, or parallel to it, and consequently 
to secure the whole combination in their places. The 
general result is, that not only the motions of the human 
body necessary for the ordinary offices of life are per- 
formed with safety, but that it is an accident hardly ever 
heard of, that even the gesticulations of a harlequin 
distort his spine. 

Upon the whole, and as a guide to those who may be 
inclined to carry the consideration of this subject far- 


ther, there are three views under which the spine ought 
to be regarded, and in all which it cannot fail to excite 
our admiration. These views relate to its articulations, 
its ligaments, and its perforation; and to the corre- 
sponding advantages which the body derives from it, for 
action, for strength, and for that which is essential to 
every part, a secure communication with the brain. 

The structure of the spine is not in general different 
in different animals. In the serpent tribe, however, it 
is considerably varied ; but with a strict reference to the 
conveniency of the animal. Foi% whereas in quadrupeds 
the number of vertebrae is from thirty to forty, in the 
serpent it is nearly one hundred and fifty: whereas in 
men and quadrupeds the surfaces of the bones are flat, 
and these flat surfaces laid one against the other, and 
bound tight by sinews; in the serpent, the bones play 
one within another like a ball and socket*, so that they 
have a free motion upon one another in every direction : 
that is to say, in men and quadrupeds, firmness is more 
consulted; in serpents, pliancy. Yet even pliancy is 
not obtained at the expense of safety. The back bone 
of a serpent, for coherence and flexibility, is one of the 
most curious pieces of animal mechanism with which 
we are acquainted. The chain of a watch (I mean 
the chain which passes between the spring-barrel and 
the fusee), which aims at the same properties, is but a 
bungling piece of workmanship in comparison with that 
of which we speak. 

IV. The reciprocal enlargement and contraction of 
the chest to allow for the play of the lungs, depends 
upon a simple yet beautiful mechanical contrivance, 
referable to the structure of the bones which enclose it. 
The ribs are articulated to the back-bone, or rather to 
* Der. Phys. Theol. p. 396. 


its side projections, obliquely : that is, in their natural 
position they bend or slope from the place of arti- 
culation downwards. But the basis upon which they 
rest at this end being fixed, the consequence of the ob- 
liquity, or the inclination downwards, is, that when 
they come to move, whatever pulls the ribs upwards, 
necessarily, at the same time, draws them out ; and 
that, whilst the ribs are brought to a right angle with 
the spine behind, the sternum, or part of the chest to 
which they are attached in front, is thrust forward. 
The simple action, therefore, of the elevating muscles 
does the business ; whereas, if the ribs had been arti- 
culated with the bodies of the vertebrae at right angles, 
the cavity of the thorax could never have been farther 
enlarged by a change of their position. If each rib 
had been a rigid bone, articulated at both ends to fixed 
bases, the whole chest had been immoveable. Keill 
has observed, that the breast-bone, in an easy inspira- 
tion, is thrust out one-tenth of an inch : and he cal- 
culates that this, added to what is gained to the space 
within the chest by the flattening or descent of the 
diaphragm, leaves room for forty-two cubic inches of 
air to enter at every drawing-in of the breath. When 
there is a necessity for a deeper and more laborious 
inspiration, the enlargement of the capacity of the 
chest may be so increased by effort, as that the lungs 
may be distended with seventy or a hundred such cubic 
inches *. The thorax, says Schelhammer, forms a kind 
of bellows, such as never have been, nor probably will 
be, made by any artificer. 

V. The patella, or knee-pan, is a curious little bone; 
in its form and office, unlike any other bone in the 
body. It is circular -, the size of a crown piece ; pretty 

* Anat. p. 229. 


thick; a little convex on both sides, and covered with 
a smooth cartilage. It lies upon the front of the knee: 
and the powerful tendons, by which the leg is brought 
forward, pass through it (or rather it makes a part of 
their continuation), from their origin in the thigh to 
their insertion in the tibia. It protects both the tendon 
and the joint from any injury which either might suffer, 
by the rubbing of one against the other, or by the pres- 
sure of unequal surfaces. It also gives to the tendons 
a very considerable mechanical advantage, by altering 
the line of their direction, and by advancing it farther 
out from the centre of motion ; and this upon the prin- 
ciples of the resolution of force, upon which principles 
all machinery is founded. These are its uses. But 
what is most observable in it is, that it appears to be 
supplemental, as it were, to the frame; added, as it 
should almost seem, afterward; not quite necessary, 
but very convenient. It is separate from the other 
bones; that is, it is not connected with any other bones 
by the common mode of union. It is soft, or hardly 
formed, in infancy ; and produced by an ossification, of 
the inception or progress of which no account can be 
given from the structure or exercise of the part. 

VI. The shoulder-blade is, in some material respects, 
a very singular bone ; appearing to be made so expressly 
for its own purpose, and so independently of every other 
reason. In such quadrupeds as have no collar-bones, 
which are by far the greater number, the shoulder-blade 
has no bony communication with the trunk, either by 
a joint, or process, or in any other way. It does not 
grow to, or out of, any other bone of the trunk. It 
does not apply to any other bone of the trunk : (I 
know not whether this be true of any second bone in 
the body, except perhaps the os hyoides:) in strictness, 
it forms no part of the skeleton. It is bedded in the 


flesh; attached only to the muscles. It is no other 
than a foundation bone for the arm, laid in, separate as 
it were, and distinct, from the general ossification. The 
lower limbs connect themselves at the hip with bones 
which form part of the skeleton: but this connexion, 
in the upper limbs, being wanting, a basis, whereupon 
the arm might be articulated, was to be supplied by a 
detached ossification for the purpose. 


1. The above are a few examples of bones made re* 
markable by their configuration: but to almost all the 
bones belong joints; and in these, still more clearly 
than in the form or shape of the bones themselves, are 
seen both contrivance and contriving wisdom. Every 
joint is a curiosity, and is also strictly mechanical. 
There is the hinge-joint and the mortice and tenon- 
joint; each as manifestly such, and as accurately de- 
fined, as any which can be produced out of a cabinet- 
maker's shop ; and one or the other prevails, as either 
is adapted to the motion which is wanted: e.g. a mor- 
tice and tenon, or ball and socket joint, is not required 
at the knee, the leg standing in need only of a motion 
backward and forward in the same plane, for which a 
hinge-joint is sufficient; a mortice and tenon, or ball 
and socket joint, is wanted at the hip, that not only 
the progressive step may be provided for, but the in- 
terval between the limbs may be enlarged or contracted 
at pleasure. Now observe what would have been the 
inconveniency, i. e. both the superfluity and the defect 
of articulation, if the case had been inverted : if the 
ball and socket joint had been at the knee, and the 
hinge-joint at the hip. The thighs must have been 
kept constantly together, and the legs had been loose 


and straddling. There would have been no use, that 
we know of, in being able to turn the calves of the legs 
before; and there would have been great confinement 
by restraining the motion of the thighs to one plane. 
The disadvantage would not have been less, if the joints 
at the hip and the knee had been both of the same sort ; 
both balls and sockets, or both hinges: yet why, inde- 
pendently of utility, and of a Creator who consulted 
that utility, should the same bone (the thigh-bone) be 
rounded at one end, and channelled at the other? 

The hinge-joint is not formed by a bolt passing 
through the two parts of the hinge, and thus keeping 
them in their places ; but by a different expedient. A 
strong, tough, parchment-like membrane, rising from 
the receiving bones, and inserted all round the received 
bones a little below their heads, encloses the joint on 
every side. This membrane ties, confines, and holds 
the ends of the bones together; keeping the corre- 
sponding parts of the joint, f. e. the relative convexities 
and concavities, in close application to each other. 

For the ball and socket joint, beside the membrane 
already described, there is in some important joints, as 
an additional security, a short, strong, yet flexible liga- 
ment, inserted by one end into the head of the ball, by 
the other into the bottom of the cup ; which ligament 
keeps the two parts of the joint so firmly in their place, 
that none of the motions which the limb naturally per- 
forms, none of the jerks and twists to which it is ordi- 
narily liable, nothing less indeed than the utmost and 
the most unnatural violence, can pull them asunder. 
It is hardly imaginable, how great a force is necessary, 
even to stretch, still more to break, this ligament : yet 
so flexible is it, as to oppose no impediment to the sup- 
pleness of the joint. By its situation also, it is inac- 


cessible to injury from sharp edges. As it cannot be 
ruptured (such is its strength); so it cannot be cut, 
except by an accident which would sever the limb. If 
I had been permitted to frame a proof of contrivance, 
such as might satisfy the most distrustful inquirer, I 
know not whether 1 could have chosen an example of 
mechanism more unequivocal, or more free from objec- 
tion, than this ligament. Nothing can be more me- 
chanical; nothing, however subservient to the safety, 
less capable of being generated by the action of the 
joint. I would particularly solicit the reader's attention 
to this provision, as it is found in the head of the thigh- 
bone; to its strength, its structure, and its use. It is 
an instance upon which I lay my hand. One single 
fact, weighed by a mind in earnest, leaves oftentimes 
the deepest impression. For the purpose of addressing 
different understandings and different apprehensions, 
— for the purpose of sentiment, for the purpose of ex- 
citing admiration of the Creator's works, we diversify 
our views, we multiply our examples; but for the pur- 
pose of strict argument, one clear instance is sufficient ; 
and not only sufficient, but capable perhaps of ge- 
nerating a firmer assurance than what can arise from 
a divided attention. 

The ginglymus, or hinge-joint, does not, it is mani- 
fest, admit of a ligament of the same kind with that of 
the ball and socket joint, but it is always fortified by 
the species of ligament of which it does admit. The 
strong, firm, investing membrane, above described, 
accompanies it in every part: and in particular joints, 
this membrane, which is properly a ligament, is consi- 
derably stronger on the sides than either before or be- 
hind, in order that the convexities may play true in 
their concavities, and not be subject to slip sideways, 


which is the chief danger; for the muscular tendons 
generally restrain the parts from going farther than 
they ought to go in the plane of their motion. In the 
knee, which is a joint of this form, and of great im- 
portance, there are superadded to the common provi- 
sions for the stability of the joint, two strong ligaments 
which cross each other ; and cross each other in such a 
manner, as to secure the joint from being displaced in 
any assignable direction. " I think," says Cheselden, 
" that the knee cannot be completely dislocated with- 
out breaking the cross ligaments # ." We can hardly 
help comparing this with the binding up of a fracture, 
where the fillet is almost always strapped across, for the 
sake of giving firmness and strength to the bandage. 

Another no less important joint, and that also of the 
ginglymus sort, is the ankle; yet though important 
(in order, perhaps, to preserve the symmetry and light- 
ness of the limb), small, and, on that account, more 
liable to injury. Now this joint is strengthened, i> e. 
is defended from dislocation, by two remarkable pro- 
cesses or prolongations of the bones of the leg, which 
processes form the protuberances that we call the inner 
and outer ankle. It is part of each bone going down 
lower than the other part, and thereby overlapping the 
joint: so that, if the joint be in danger of slipping out- 
ward, it is curbed by the inner projection, u e. that of 
the tibia; if inward, by the outer projection, i. e. that 
of the fibula. Between both, it is locked in its position. 
I know no account that can be given of this structure, 
except its utility. Why should the tibia terminate, at 
its lower extremity, with a double end, and the fibula 
the same, — but to barricade the joint on both sides by 

* Ches. Anat. ed. 7th, p. 45. 


a continuation of part of the thickest of the bone over 
it? The joint at the shoulder, compared with the joint 
at the hip, though both ball and socket joints, discovers 
a difference in their form and proportions, well suited 
to the different offices which the limbs have to execute. 
The cup or socket at the shoulder is much shallower 
and flatter than it is at the hip, and is also in part 
formed of cartilage set round the rim of the cup. The 
socket, into which the head of the thigh-bone is inserted, 
is deeper, and made of more solid materials. This 
agrees with the duties assigned to each part. The arm 
is an instrument of motion, principally, if not solely. 
Accordingly the shallowness of the socket at the shoul- 
der, and the yieldingness of the cartilaginous substance 
with which its edge is set round, and which in fact 
composes a considerable part of its concavity, are ex- 
cellently adapted for the allowance of a free motion 
and a wide range ; both which the arm wants. Whereas, 
the lower limb, forming a part of the column of the 
body ; having to support the body, as well as to be the 
means of its locomotion ; firmness was to be consulted, 
as well as action. With a capacity for motion, in all 
directions indeed, as at the shoulder, but not in any 
direction to the same extent as in the arm, was to be 
united stability, or resistance to dislocation. Hence 
the deeper excavation of the socket ; and the presence 
of a less proportion of cartilage upon the edge. 

The suppleness and pliability of the joints, we every 
moment experience; and the firmness of animal articu* 
lation, the property we have hitherto been considering, 
may be judged of from this single observation, that, at 
any given moment of time, there are millions of animal 
joints in complete repair and use, for one that is dislo- 
cated; and this, notwithstanding the contortions and 


wrenches to which the limbs of animals are continually 

II. The joints, or rather the ends of the bones which 
form them, display also, in their configuration, another 
use. The nerves, blood-vessels, and tendons, which 
are necessary to the life, or for the motion, of the 
limbs, must, it is evident, in their way from the trunk 
of the body to the place of their destination, travel over 
the moveable joints ; and it is no less evident, that, in 
this part of their course, they will have, from sudden 
motions, and from abrupt changes of curvature, to en- 
counter the danger of compression, attrition, or lacera- 
tion. To guard fibres so tender against consequences 
so injurious, their path is in those parts protected with 
peculiar care ; and that by a provision, in the figure of 
the bones themselves. The nerves which supply the 
fore-arm, especially the inferior cubital nerves, are at 
the elbow conducted, by a kind of covered way, be- 
tween the condyls, or rather under the inner extube- 
rances of the bone, which composes the upper part of 
the arm*. At the knee, the extremity of the thigh- 
bone is divided by a sinus or cliff into two heads or 
protuberances : and these heads on the back part stand 
out beyond the cylinder of the bone. Through the 
hollow, which lies between the hind-parts of these two 
heads, that is to say, under the ham, between the ham- 
strings, and within the concave recess of the bone 
formed by the extuberances on each side ; in a word, 
along a defile, between rocks, pass the great vessels and 
nerves which go to the legt. Who led these vessels by 
a road so defended and secured? In the joint at the 
shoulder, in the edge of the cup which receives the 
head of the bone, is a notch, which is joined or covered 

* Ches. Anat. p. 255, ed. 7. f lb. p. 35. 



at the top with a ligament. Through this hole, thus 
guarded, the blood-vessels steal to their destination in 
the arm, instead of mounting over the edge of the con- 
cavity *. 

III. In all joints, the ends of the bones, which work 
against each other, are tipped with gristle. In the ball 
and socket joint, the cup is lined, and the ball capped 
with it. The smooth surface, the elastic and unfriable 
nature of cartilage, render it of all substances the most 
proper for the place and purpose. I should, therefore, 
have pointed this out amongst the foremost of the pro- 
visions which have been made in the joints for the fa- 
cilitating of their action, had it not been alleged, that 
cartilage in truth is only nascent or imperfect bone ; 
and that the bone in these places is kept soft and im- 
perfect, in consequence of a more complete and rigid 
ossification being prevented from taking place by the 
continual motion and rubbing of the surfaces ; which 
being so, what we represent as a designed advantage, is 
an unavoidable effect. I am far from being convinced 
that this is a true account of the fact ; or that, if it 
were so, it answers the argument. To me, the sur- 
mounting of the ends of the bones with gristle, looks 
more like a plating with a different metal, than like the 
same metal kept in a different state by the action to 
which it is exposed. At all events, we have a great 
particular benefit, though arising from a general con- 
stitution : but this last not being quite what my argu- 
ment requires, lest I should seem by applying the in- 
stance to overrate its value, I have thought it fair to 
state the question which attends it. 

IV. In some joints, very particularly in the knees, 
there are loose cartilages or gristles between the bones, 

* Ches. Anat. p. 30, ed. 7. 


and within the joint, so that the ends of the bones, in- 
stead of working upon one another, work upon the in- 
termediate cartilages. Cheselden has observed*, that 
the contrivance of a loose ring is practised by mechanics, 
where the friction of the joints of any of their machines 
is great ; as between the parts of crook-hinges of large 
gates, or under the head of the male screw of large 
vices. The cartilages of which we speak, have very 
much of the form of these rings. The comparison 
moreover shows the reason why we find them in the 
knees rather than in other joints. It is an expedient, 
we have seen, which a mechanic resorts to, only when 
some strong and heavy work is to be done. So here 
the thigh-bone has to achieve its motion at the knee, 
with the whole weight of the body pressing upon it, 
and often, as in rising from our seat, with the whole 
weight of the body to lift. It should seem also, from 
Cheselden's account, that the slipping and sliding of 
the loose cartilages, though it be probably a small and 
obscure change, humoured the motion at the end of 
the thigh-bone, under the particular configuration which 
was necessary to be given to it for the commodious ac- 
tion of the tendons; (and which configuration requires 
what he calls a variable socket, that is, a concavity, the 
lines of which assume a different curvature in different 
inclinations of the bones.) 

V. We have now done with the configuration : but 
there is also in the joints, and that common to them 
all, another exquisite provision, manifestly adapted to 
their use, and concerning which there can, I think, be 
no dispute, namely, the regular supply of a mucilage, 
more emollient and slippery than oil itself, which is 
constantly softening and lubricating the parts that rub 
* Ches. Anat. p. 13, ed. /. 

G 2 


upon each other, and thereby diminishing the effect of 
attrition in the highest possible degree. For the con- 
tinual secretion of this important liniment, and for the 
feeding of the cavities of the joint with it, glands are 
fixed near each joint; the excretory ducts of which 
glands dripping with their balsamic contents, hang loose 
like fringes within the cavity of the joints. A late im- 
provement in what are called friction-wheels, which con- 
sist of a mechanism so ordered, as to be regularly drop- 
ping oil into a box, which encloses the axis, the nave, 
and certain balls upon which the nave revolves, may be 
said, in some sort, to represent the contrivance in the 
animal joint; with this superiority, however, on the 
part of the joint, viz. that here, the oil is not only 
dropped, but made. 

In considering the joints, there is nothing, perhaps, 
which ought to move our gratitude more than the re- 
flection, how well they wear. A limb shall swing upon 
its hinge, or play in its socket, many hundred times in 
an hour, for sixty years together, without diminution 
of its agility: which is a long time for any thing to 
last; for any thing so much worked and exercised as 
the joints are. This durability, I should attribute, in 
part, to the provision which is made for the prevent- 
ing of wear and tear, first, by the polish of the carti- 
laginous surfaces; secondly, by the healing lubrication 
of the mucilage ; and, in part, to that astonishing pro- 
perty of animal constitutions, assimilation, by which, in 
every portion of the body, let it consist of what it will, 
substance is restored, and waste repaired. 

Moveable joints, I think, compose the curiosity of 
bones; but their union, even where no motion is in- 
tended or wanted, carries marks of mechanism and of 
mechanical wisdom. The teeth, especially the front 


teeth, are one bone fixed in another, like a peg driven 
into a board. The sutures of the skull are like the 
edges of two saws clapped together, in such a manner 
as that the teeth of one enter the intervals of the other. 
We have sometimes one bone lapping over another, 
and planed down at the edges ; sometimes also the thin 
lamella of one bone received into a narrow furrow of an- 
other. In all which varieties, we seem to discover the 
same design, viz. firmness of juncture, without clumsi- 
ness in the seam. 



Muscles, with their tendons, are the instruments 
by which animal motion is performed. It will be our 
business to point out instances in which, and properties 
with respect to which, the disposition of these muscles 
is as strictly mechanical, as that of the wires and strings 
of a puppet. 

I. We may observe, what I believe is universal, an 
exact relation between the joint and the muscles which 
move it. Whatever motion the joint, by its mechanical 
construction, is capable of performing, that motion, the 
annexed muscles, by their position, are capable of pro- 
ducing. For example j if there be, as at the knee and 
elbow, a hinge-joint, capable of motion only in the same 
plane, the leaders, as they are called, i. e. the muscular 
tendons, are placed in directions parallel to the bone, 
so as, by the contraction or relaxation of the muscles 
to which they belong, to produce that motion and no 
other. If these joints were capable of a freer motion, 
there are no muscles to produce it. Whereas at the 


shoulder and the hip, where the ball and socket joint 
allows by its construction of a rotatory or sweeping 
motion, tendons are placed in such a position, and pull 
in such a direction, as to produce the motion of which 
the joint admits. For instance, the sartorius or tailor's 
muscle, rising from the spine, running diagonally across 
the thigh, and taking hold of the inside of the main 
bone of the leg, a little below the knee, enables us, by 
its contraction, to throw one leg and thigh over the 
other; giving effect, at the same time, to the ball and 
socket joint at the hip, and the hinge-joint at the knee. 
There is, as we have seen, a specific mechanism in the 
bones, for the rotatory motions of the head and hands : 
there is, also, in the oblique direction of the muscles 
belonging to them, a specific provision for the putting 
of this mechanism of the bones into action. And mark 
the consent of uses, the oblique muscles would have 
been inefficient without that particular articulation: 
that particular articulation would have been lost, with- 
out the oblique muscles. It may be proper however to 
observe with respect to the head, although I think it 
does not vary the case, that its oblique motions and in- 
clinations are often motions in a diagonal, produced by 
the joint action of muscles lying in straight directions. 
But whether the pull be single or combined, the arti- 
culation is always such, as to be capable of obeying the 
action of the muscles. The oblique muscles attached 
to the head are likewise so disposed, as to be capable 
of steadying the globe, as well as of moving it. The 
head of a new-born infant is often obliged to be filleted 
up. After death, the head drops and rolls in every 
direction. So that it is by the equilibre of the muscles, 
by the aid of a considerable and equipollent muscular 
force in constant exertion, that the head maintains its 


erect posture. The muscles here supply what would 
otherwise be a great defect in the articulation : for the 
joint in the neck, although admirably adapted to the 
motion of the head, is insufficient for its support. It 
is not only by the means of a most curious structure of 
the bones that a man turns his head, but by virtue of 
an adjusted muscular power, that he even holds it up. 

As another example of what we are illustrating, viz. 
conformity of use between the bones and the muscles, 
it has been observed of the different vertebrae, that 
their processes are exactly proportioned to the quantity 
of motion which the other bones allow of, and which 
the respective muscles are capable of producing. 

II. A muscle acts only by contraction. Its force is 
exerted in no other way. When the exertion ceases, 
it relaxes itself, that is, it returns by relaxation to its 
former state; but without energy. This is the nature 
of the muscular fibre : and being so, it is evident that 
the reciprocal energetic motion of the limbs, by which 
we mean motion with force in opposite directions, can 
only be produced by the instrumentality of opposite or 
antagonist muscles ; of flexors and extensors answering 
to each other. For instance, the biceps and brachiaeus 
internus muscles placed in the front part of the upper 
arm, by their contraction, bend the elbow; and with 
such degree of force, as the case requires, or the 
strength 'admits of. The relaxation of these muscles, 
after the effort, would merely let the fore-arm drop 
down. For the back stroke, therefore, and that the 
arm may not only bend at the elbow, but also extend 
and straighten itself with force, other muscles, the 
longus and brevis brachiaeus externus and the anco- 
naeus, placed on the hinder part of the arms, by their 
contractile twitch fetch back the fore-arm into a straight 


line with the cubit, with no less force than that with 
which it was bent out of it. The same thing obtains 
in all the limbs, and in every moveable part of the body. 
A finger is not bent and straightened, without the 
contraction of two muscles taking place. It is evident, 
therefore, that the animal functions require that parti- 
cular disposition of the muscles which we describe by 
the name of antagonist muscles. And they are ac- 
cordingly so disposed. Every muscle is provided with 
an adversary. They act, like two sawyers in a pit, by 
an opposite pull : and nothing surely can more strongly 
indicate design and attention to an end, than their 
being thus stationed, than this collocation. The na- 
ture of the muscular fibre being what it is, the purposes 
of the animal could be answered by no other. And 
not only the capacity for motion, but the aspect and 
symmetry of the body is preserved by the muscles being 
marshalled according to this order, e. g. the mouth is 
holden in the middle of the face, and its angles kept in 
a state of exact correspondency, by two muscles draw- 
ing against, and balancing each other. In a hemiplegia, 
when the muscle on one side is weakened, the muscle 
on the other side draws the mouth awry. 

III. Another property of the muscles, which could 
only be the result of care, is their being almost uni- 
versally so disposed, as not to obstruct or interfere with 
one another's action. I know but one instance in 
which this impediment is perceived. We cannot easily 
swallow whilst we gape. This, I understand, is owing 
to the muscles employed in the act of deglutition being 
so implicated with the muscles of the lower jaw, that 
whilst these last are contracted, the former cannot act 
with freedom. The obstruction is, in this instance, 
attended with little inconvenience ; but it shows what 


the effect is where it does exist ; and what loss of fa- 
culty there would be if it were more frequent. Now, 
when we reflect upon the number of muscles, not fewer 
than four hundred and forty-six in the human body, 
known and named*, how contiguous they lie to each 
other, in layers, as it were, over one another, crossing 
one another, sometimes embedded in one another, 
sometimes perforating one another: an arrangement, 
which leaves to each its liberty, and its full play, must 
necessarily require meditation and counsel. 

IV. The following is oftentimes the case with the 
muscles. Their action is wanted, where their situation 
would be inconvenient. In which case, the body of 
the muscle is placed in some commodious position at a 
distance, and made to communicate with the point of 
action by slender strings or wires. If the muscles 
which move the fingers had been placed in the palm 
or back of the hand, they would have swelled that part 
to an awkward and clumsy thickness. The beauty, the 
proportions of the part, would have been destroyed. 
They are therefore disposed in the arm, and even up 
to the elbow ; and act by long tendons, strapped down 
at the wrist, and passing under the ligaments to the 
ringers, and to the joints of the ringers, which they are 
severally to move. In like manner, the muscles which 
move the toes, and many of the joints of the foot, how 
gracefully are they disposed in the calf of the leg, in- 
stead of forming an unwieldy tumefaction in the foot 
itself! The observation may be repeated of the muscle 
which draws the nictitating membrane over the eye. 
Its office is in the front of the eye ; but its body is 
lodged in the back part of the globe, where it lies safe, 
and where it encumbers nothing. 

V. The great mechanical variety in the figure of the 

* Keill's Anatomy, p. 295, ed. 3. 


muscles may be thus stated. It appears to be a fixed 
law, that the contraction of a muscle shall be towards 
its centre. Therefore the subject for mechanism on 
each occasion is, so to modify the figure, and adjust the 
position of the muscle, as to produce the motion re- 
quired, agreeably with this law. This can only be done 
by giving to different muscles a diversity of configura- 
tion, suited to their several offices, and to their situa- 
tion, with respect to the work which they have to per- 
form. On which account we find them under a multi- 
plicity of forms and attitudes ; sometimes with double, 
sometimes with treble tendons, sometimes with none : 
sometimes one tendon to several muscles, at other times 
one muscle to several tendons. The shape of the organ 
is susceptible of an incalculable variety, whilst the ori- 
ginal property of the muscle, the law and line of its 
contraction, remains the same, and is simple. Herein 
the muscular system may be said to bear a perfect re- 
semblance to our works of art. An artist does not 
alter the native quality of his materials, or their laws 
of action. He takes these as he finds them. His 
skill and ingenuity are employed in turning them, 
such as they are, to his account, by giving to the parts 
of his machine a form and relation, in which these un- 
alterable properties may operate to the production of 
the effects intended. 

VI. The ejaculations can never too often be re- 
peated; — How many things must go right for us to be 
an hour at ease ! how many more for us to be vigorous 
and active ! Yet vigour and activity are, in a vast plu- 
rality of instances, preserved in human bodies, notwith- 
standing that they depend upon so great a number of in- 
struments of motion, and notwithstanding that the defect 
or disorder sometimes of a very small instrument, of a single 
pair, for instance, out of the four hundred and forty-six 


muscles which are employed, may be attended with griev- 
ous inconveniency. There is piety and good sense in the 
following observation taken out of the Religions Philoso- 
pher: "With much compassion," says this writer, " as 
well as astonishment at the goodness of our loving 
Creator, have I considered the sad state of a certain 
gentleman, who, as to the rest, was in pretty good 
health, but only wanted the use of these two little 
muscles that serve to lift up the eyelids, and so had 
almost lost the use of his sight, being forced, as long 
as this defect lasted, to shove up his eyelids every mo- 
ment with his own hands!" — In general we may re- 
mark in how small a degree those, who enjoy the perfect 
use of their organs, know the comprehensiveness of the 
blessing, the variety of their obligation. They perceive 
a result, but they think little of the multitude of con- 
currences and rectitudes which go to form it. 

Beside these observations, which belong to the mus- 
cular organ as such, we may notice some advantages of 
structure which are more conspicuous in muscles of a 
certain class or description than in others. Thus : 

I. The variety, quickness, and precision, of which 
muscular motion is capable, are seen, I think, in no 
part so remarkably as in the tongue. It is worth any 
man's while to watch the agility of his tongue ; the 
wonderful promptitude with which it executes changes 
of position, and the perfect exactness. Each syllable 
of articulated sound requires for its utterance a specific 
action of the tongue, and of the parts adjacent to it. 
The disposition and configuration of the mouth, apper- 
taining to every letter and word, is not only peculiar, 
but, if nicely and accurately attended to, perceptible to 
the sight; insomuch, that curious persons have availed 
themselves of this circumstance to teach the deaf to 
speak, and to understand what is said by others. In 


the same person, and after his habit of speaking is 
formed, one, and only one, position of the parts, will 
produce a given articulate sound correctly. How in- 
stantaneously are these positions assumed and dismissed ; 
how numerous are the permutations, how various, yet 
how infallible! Arbitrary and antic variety is not the 
thing we admire ; but variety obeying a rule, conducing 
to an effect, and commensurate with exigencies in- 
finitely diversified. I believe also that the anatomy of 
the tongue corresponds with these observations upon 
its activity. The muscles of the tongue are so numer- 
ous, and so implicated with one another, that they 
cannot be traced by the nicest dissection ; nevertheless 
(which is a great perfection of the organ) neither the 
number, nor the complexity, nor what might seem to 
be the entanglement of its fibres, in anywise impede 
its motion, or render the determination or success of 
its efforts uncertain. 

I here entreat the reader's permission to step a little 
out of my way, to consider the parts of the mouth, in 
some of their other properties. It has been said, and 
that by an eminent physiologist, that, whenever nature 
attempts to work two or more purposes by one instru- 
ment, she does both or all imperfectly. Is this true 
of the tongue, regarded as an instrument of speech, 
and of taste; or regarded as an instrument of speech, 
of taste, and of deglutition? So much otherwise, 
that many persons, that is to say, nine hundred and 
ninety-nine persons out of a thousand, by the in- 
strumentality of this one organ, talk, and taste, and 
swallow very well. In fact, the constant warmth and 
moisture of the tongue, the thinness of the skin, the 
papillae upon its surface, qualify this organ for its office 


of tasting, as much as its inextricable multiplicity of 
fibres do for the rapid movements which are necessary 
to speech. Animals which feed upon grass have their 
tongues covered with a perforated skin, so as to admit 
the dissolved food to the papillae underneath, which, in 
the mean time, remain defended from the rough action 
of the unbruised spiculae. 

There are brought together within the cavity of the 
mouth more distinct uses, and parts executing more 
distinct offices, than I think can be found lying so near 
to one another, or within the same compass, in any 
other portion of the body: viz. teeth of different shape, 
first for cutting, secondly for grinding ; muscles, most 
artificially disposed for carrying on the compound mo- 
tion of the lower jaw, half lateral and half vertical, by 
which the mill is worked: fountains of saliva, springing 
up in different parts of the cavity for the moistening of 
the food, whilst the mastication is going on: glands, 
to feed the fountains; a muscular constriction of a very 
peculiar kind in the back part of the cavity, for the 
guiding of the prepared aliment into its passage to- 
wards the stomach, and in many cases for carrying it 
along that passage ; for, although we may imagine this 
to be done simply by the weight of the food itself, it 
in truth is not so, even in the upright posture of the 
human neck ; and most evidently is not the case with 
quadrupeds, with a horse for instance, in which, when 
pasturing, the food is thrust upward by muscular 
strength, instead of descending of its own accord. 

In the mean time, and within the same cavity, is 
going on another business, altogether different from 
what is here described, — that of respiration and speech. 
In addition therefore to all that has been mentioned, 
we have a passage opened, from this cavity to the lungs, 


for the admission of air, exclusively of every other sub- 
stance j we have muscles, some in the larynx, and 
without number in the tongue, for the purpose of mo- 
dulating that air in its passage, with a variety, a com- 
pass, and precision, of which no other musical instru- 
ment is capable. And lastly, which in my opinion 
crowns the whole as a piece of machinery, we have a 
specific contrivance for dividing the pneumatic part 
from the mechanical, and for preventing one set of ac- 
tions interfering with the other. Where various func- 
tions are united, the difficulty is to guard against the 
inconveniencies of a too great complexity. In no ap- 
paratus put together by art, and for the purposes of 
art, do I know such multifarious uses so aptly combined, 
as in the natural organisation of the human mouth ; or 
where the structure, compared with the uses, is so 
simple. The mouth, with all these intentions to serve, 
is a single cavity ; is one machine ; with its parts nei- 
ther crowded nor confused, and each unembarrassed 
by the rest : each at least at liberty in a degree sufficient 
for the end to be attained. If we cannot eat and sing 
at the same moment, we can eat one moment and sing 
the next : the respiration proceeding freely all the while. 
There is one case however of this double office, and 
that of the earliest necessity, which the mouth alone 
could not perform ; and that is, carrying on together 
the two actions of sucking and breathing. Another 
route therefore is opened for the air, namely, through 
the nose, which lets the breath pass backward and for- 
ward, whilst the lips, in the act of sucking, are neces- 
sarily shut close upon the body from which the nutri- 
ment is drawn. This is a circumstance which always 
appeared to me worthy of notice. The nose would 
have been necessary, although it had not been the 


organ of smelling. The making it the seat of a sense, 
was superadding a new use to a part already wanted ; 
was taking a wise advantage of an antecedent and a 
constitutional necessity. 

But to return to that which is the proper subject of 
the present section, — the celerity and precision of mus- 
cular motion. These qualities may be particularly ob- 
served in the execution of many species of instrumental 
music, in which the changes produced by the hand of 
the musician are exceedingly rapid; are exactly mea- 
sured, even when most minute; and display, on the 
part of the muscles, an obedience of action, alike won- 
derful for its quickness and its correctness. 

Or let a person only observe his own hand whilst he 
is writing; the number of muscles, which are brought 
to bear upon the pen ; how the joint and adjusted ope- 
ration of several tendons is concerned in every stroke, 
yet that five hundred such strokes are drawn in a 
minute. Not a letter can be turned without more 
than one, or two, or three tendinous contractions, de- 
finite, both as to the choice of the tendon, and as to 
the space through which the contraction moves; yet 
how currently does the work proceed! and when we 
look at it, how faithful have the muscles been to their 
duty, how true to the order which endeavour or habit 
hath inculcated! For let it be remembered, that, 
whilst a man's hand-writing is the same, an exactitude 
of order is preserved, whether he write well or ill. 
These two instances of music and writing, show not 
only the quickness and precision of muscular action, 

but the docility. 

II. Regarding the particular configuration of muscles, 


sphincter or circular muscles appear to me admirable 
pieces of mechanism. It is the muscular power most 
happily applied ; the same quality of the muscular sub- 
stance, but under a new modification. The circular 
disposition of the fibres is strictly mechanical; but, 
though the most mechanical, is not the only thing in 
sphincters which deserves our notice. The regulated 
degree of contractile force with which they are en- 
dowed, sufficient for retention, yet vincible when re- 
quisite, together with their ordinary state of actual 
contraction, by means of which their dependence upon 
the will is not constant, but occasional, gives to them 
a constitution, of which the conveniency is inestimable. 
This their semi-voluntary character, is exactly such as 
suits with the wants and functions of the animal. 

III. We may also, upon the subject of muscles, ob- 
serve, that many of our most important actions are 
achieved by the combined help of different muscles. 
Frequently, a diagonal motion is produced, by the con- 
traction of tendons pulling in the direction of the sides 
of the parallelogram. This is the case, as hath been 
already noticed, with some of the oblique nutations of 
the head. Sometimes the number of co-operating 
muscles is very great. Dr. Nieuentyt, in the Leipsic 
Transactions, reckons up a hundred muscles that are 
employed every time we breathe; yet we take in, or 
let out, our breath, without reflecting what a work is 
thereby performed ; what an apparatus is laid in, of in- 
struments for the service, and how many such contri- 
bute their assistance to the effect. Breathing with 
ease, is a blessing of every moment; yet, of all others, 
it is that which we possess with the least consciousness. 
A man in an asthma is the only man who knows how 
to estimate it. 


IV. Mr. Home has observed*, that the most im- 
portant and the most delicate actions are performed in 
the body by the smallest muscles : and he mentions, 
as his examples, the muscles which have been discovered 
in the iris of the eye, and the drum of the ear. The 
tenuity of these muscles is astonishing. They are mi- 
croscopic hairs; must be magnified to be visible; yet 
are they real, effective muscles : and not only such, but 
the grandest and most precious of our faculties, sight 
and hearing, depend upon their health and action. 

V. The muscles act in the limbs with what is called 
a mechanical disadvantage. The muscle at the shoulder, 
by which the arm is raised, is fixed nearly in the same 
manner as the load is fixed upon a steelyard, within a 
few decimals, we will say, of an inch, from the centre 
upon which the steelyard turns. In this situation, we 
find that a very heavy draught is no more than suf- 
ficient to countervail the force of a small lead plummet, 
placed upon the long arm of the steelyard, at the 
distance of perhaps fifteen or twenty inches from the 
centre and on the other side of it. And this is the 
disadvantage which is meant. And an absolute dis- 
advantage, no doubt, it would be, if the object were to 
spare the force of muscular contraction. But observe 
how conducive is this constitution to animal conveniency. 
Mechanism has always in view one or other of these 
two purposes; either to move a great weight slowly, 
and through a small space, or to move a light weight 
rapidly, through a considerable sweep. For the former 
of these purposes, a different species of lever, and a dif- 
ferent collocation of the muscles, might be better than 
the present; but for the second, the present structure 
is the true one. Now so it happens, that the second, 

* Phil Trans, part i. 1800, p. 8. 


and not the first, is that which the occasions of animal 
life principally call for. In what concerns the human 
body, it is of much more consequence to any man to be 
able to carry his hand to his head with due expedition, 
than it would be to have the power of raising from the 
ground a heavier load (of two or three more hundred 
weight, we will suppose), than he can lift at present. 
This last is a faculty, which, on some extraordinary 
occasions, he may desire to possess: but the other is 
what he wants and uses every hour or minute. In like 
manner, a husbandman or a gardener will do more exe- 
cution, by being able to carry his scythe, his rake, or 
his flail, with a sufficient despatch through a sufficient 
space, than if, with greater strength, his motions were 
proportionably more confined, and slow. It is the same 
with a mechanic in the use of his tools. It is the same 
also with other animals in the use of their limbs. In 
general, the vivacity of their motions would be ill ex- 
changed for greater force under a clumsier structure. 

We have offered our observations upon the structure 
of muscles in general ; we have also noticed certain 
species of muscles; but there are also single muscles, 
which bear marks of mechanical contrivance, appropriate 
as well as particular. Out of many instances of this 
kind, we select the following. 

I. Of muscular actions, even of those which are well 
understood, some of the most curious are incapable of 
popular explanation ; at least, without the aid of plates 
and figures. This is in a great measure the case, with 
a very familiar, but, at the same time, a very com- 
plicated motion, — that of the lower jmv; and with the 
muscular structure by which it is produced. One of 
the muscles concerned may, however, be described in 
such a manner, as to be, I think, sufficiently com- 


prehended for our present purpose. The problem is to 
pull the lower jaw down. The obvious method should 
seem to be, to place a straight muscle, viz. to fix a 
string from the chin to the breast, the contraction of 
which would open the mouth, and produce the motion 
required at once. But it is evident that the form and 
liberty of the neck forbid a muscle being laid in such a 
position; and that, consistently with the preservation 
of this form, the motion, which we want, must be effec- 
tuated by some muscular mechanism disposed farther 
back in the jaw. The mechanism adopted is as follows. 
A certain muscle called the diagastric rises on the 
side of the face, considerably above the insertion of the 
lower jaw, and comes down, being converted in its pro- 
gress into a round tendon. Now it is manifest that 
the tendon, whilst it pursues a direction descending 
towards the jaw, must, by its contraction, pull the jaw 
up, instead of down. What then was to be done? 
This, we find, is done: The descending tendon, when 
it is got low enough, is passed through a loop, or ring, 
or pulley, in the os hyo'ides, and then made to ascend y 
and, having thus changed its line of direction, is in- 
serted into the inner part of the chin : by which device, 
viz. the turn at the loop, the action of the muscle 
(which in all muscles is contraction) that before would 
have pulled the jaw up, now as necessarily draws it 
down. " The mouth," says Heister, " is opened by 
means of this trochlea in a most wonderful and elegant 

II. What contrivance can be more mechanical than 
the following, viz. a slit in one tendon to let another 
tendon pass through it? This structure is found in 
the tendons which move the toes and fingers. The 
long tendon, as it is called, in the foot, which bends 

h 2 . 


the first joint of the toe, passes through the short 
tendon which bends the second joint; which course 
allows to the sinew more liberty, and a more commodious 
action than it would otherwise have been capable of 
exerting*. There is nothing, I believe, in a silk or 
cotton mill, in the belts, or straps, or ropes, by which 
motion is communicated from one part of the machine 
to another, that is more artificial, or more evidently so, 
than this perforation. 

III. The next circumstance which I shall mention, 
under this head of muscular arrangement, is so decisive 
a mark of intention, that it always appeared to me to 
supersede, in some measure, the necessity of seeking 
for any other observation upon the subject: and that 
circumstance is, the tendons, which pass from the leg 
to the foot, being bound down by a ligament to the 
ankle. The foot is placed at a considerable angle with 
the leg. It is manifest, therefore, that flexible strings, 
passing along the interior of the angle, if left to them- 
selves, would, when stretched, start from it. The ob- 
vious preventive is to tie them down. And this is done 
in fact. Across the instep, or rather just above it, the 
anatomist finds a strong ligament, under which the 
tendons pass to the foot. The effect of the ligament 
as a bandage, can be made evident to the senses; for if 
it be cut, the tendons start up. The simplicity, yet 
the clearness of this contrivance, its exact resemblance 
to established resources of art, place it amongst the 
most indubitable manifestations of design with which 
we are acquainted. 

There is also a farther use to be made of the present 
example, and that is, as it precisely contradicts the 
opinion, that the parts of animals may have been all 

* Ches. Anat. p. 119. 


formed by what is called appetency, i. e. endeavour, 
perpetuated, and imperceptibly working its effect, 
through an incalculable series of generations. We have 
here no endeavour, but the reverse of it; a constant 
renitency and reluctance. The endeavour is all the 
other way. The pressure of the ligament constrains 
the tendons; the tendons re-act upon the pressure of 
the ligament. It is impossible that the ligament should 
ever have been generated by the exercise of the tendon, 
or in the course of that exercise, forasmuch as the force 
of the tendon perpendicularly resists the fibre which 
confines it, and is constantly endeavouring, not to form, 
but to rupture and displace, the threads of which the 
ligament is composed. 

Keill has reckoned up, in the human body, four 
hundred and forty-six muscles, dissectible and de- 
scribable ; and hath assigned a use to every one of the 
number. This cannot be all imagination. 

Bishop Wilkins hath observed from Galen, that there 
are, at least, ten several qualifications to be attended to 
in each particular muscle; viz. its proper figure; its 
just magnitude; its fulcrum; its point of action, sup- 
posing the figure to be fixed; its collocation, with 
respect to its two ends, the upper and the lower; the 
place; the position of the whole muscle; the intro- 
duction into it of nerves, arteries, veins. How are 
things, including so many adjustments, to be made; or, 
when made, how are they to be put together, without 
intelligence ? 

I have sometimes wondered, why we are not struck 
with mechanism in animal bodies, as readily and as 
strongly as we are struck with it, at first sight, in a 


watch or a mill. One reason of the difference may be, 
that animal bodies are, in a great measure, made up of 
soft, flabby substances, such as muscles and membranes; 
whereas we have been accustomed to trace mechanism 
in sharp lines, in the configuration of hard materials, in 
the moulding, chiseling, and filing into shapes, of such 
articles as metals or wood. There is something there- 
fore of habit in the case ; but it is sufficiently evident, 
that there can be no proper reason for any distinction 
of the sort. Mechanism may be displayed in the one 
kind of substance, as well as in the other. 

Although the few instances we have selected, even 
as they stand in our description, are nothing short 
perhaps of logical proofs of design, yet it must not be 
forgotten, that in every part of anatomy, description is 
a poor substitute for inspection. It is well said by an 
able anatomist*, and said in reference to the very part 
of the subject which we have been treating of: — " Im- 
perfecta ha?c musculorum descriptio, non minus arida 
est legentibus, quam inspectantibus fuerit jucunda 
eorundem prseparatio. Elegantissima enim mechanices 
artificia, creberrime, in illis obvia, verbis nonnisi ob- 
scure exprimuntur: carnium autem ductu, tendinum 
colore, insertionum proportione, et trochlearium dis- 
tributione, oculis exposita, omnem superant admira- 



The circulation of the blood, through the bodies of 
men and quadrupeds, and the apparatus by which it is 
* Steno, in Bias. Anat. Animal, p. 2, c. 4. 


carried on, compose a system, and testify a contrivance, 
perhaps the best understood of any part of the animal 
frame. The lymphatic system, or the nervous system, 
may be more subtle and intricate ; nay, it is possible 
that in their structure they may be even more artificial 
than the sanguiferous ; but we do not know so much 
about them. 

The utility of the circulation of the blood, I assume 
as an acknowledged point. One grand purpose is 
plainly answered by it ; the distributing to every part, 
every extremity, every nook and corner of the body, 
the nourishment which is received into it by one aperture. 
What enters at the mouth, finds its way to the fingers' 
ends. A more difficult mechanical problem could 
hardly I think be proposed, than to discover a method 
of constantly repairing the waste, and of supplying an 
accession of substance to every part of a complicated 
machine, at the same time. 

This system presents itself under two views: first, 
the disposition of the blood-vessels, u e. the laying of 
the pipes ; and, secondly, the construction of the engine 
at the centre, viz. the heart, for driving the blood 
through them. 

I. The disposition of the blood-vessels, as far as re- 
gards the supply of the body, is like that of the water- 
pipes in a city, viz. large and main trunks branching off 
by smaller pipes (and these again by still narrower 
tubes) in every direction, and towards every part in 
which the fluid, which they convey, can be wanted. 
So far the water-pipes which serve a town may repre- 
sent the vessels which carry the blood from the heart. 
But there is another thing necessary to the blood, which 
is not wanted for the water; and that is, the carrying 
of it back again to its source. For this office, a re- 


versed system of vessels is prepared, which, uniting at 
their extremities with the extremities of the first system, 
collects the divided and subdivided streamlets, first by 
capillary ramifications into larger branches, secondly, 
by these branches into trunks; and thus returns the 
blood (almost exactly inverting the order in which it 
went out) to the fountain whence its motion proceeded. 
All which is evident mechanism. 

The body, therefore, contains two systems of blood- 
vessels, arteries, and veins. Between the constitution 
of the systems there are also two differences, suited to 
the functions which the systems have to execute. The 
blood, in going out, passing always from wider into 
narrower tubes; and, in coming back, from narrower 
into wider ; it is evident, that the impulse and pressure 
upon the sides of the blood-vessel, will be much greater 
in one case than the other. Accordingly, the arteries 
which carry out the blood, are formed of much tougher 
and stronger coats, than the veins which bring it back. 
That is one difference : the other is still more artificial, 
or, if I may so speak, indicates, still more clearly, the 
care and anxiety of the artificer. Forasmuch as in the 
arteries, by reason of the greater force with which the 
blood is urged along them, a wound or rupture would 
be more dangerous than in the veins, these vessels are 
defended from injury, not only by their texture, but by 
their situation ; and by every advantage of situation 
which can be given to them. They are buried in 
sinuses, or they creep along grooves, made for them in 
the bones : for instance, the under-edge of the ribs is 
sloped and furrowed solely for the passage of these 
vessels. Sometimes they proceed in channels, protected 
by stout parapets on each side ; which last description 
is remarkable in the bones of the fingers, these being 


hollowed out, on the under-side, like a scoop, and with 
such a concavity, that the finger may be cut across to 
the bone, without hurting the artery which runs along 
it. At other times, the arteries pass in canals wrought 
in the substance, and in the very middle of the sub- 
stance, of the bone: this takes place in the lower jaw; 
and is found where there would, otherwise, be danger 
of compression by sudden curvature. All this care is 
wonderful, yet not more than what the importance of 
the case required. To those who venture their lives in 
a ship, it has been often said, that there is only an inch- 
board between them and death ; but in the body itself, 
especially in the arterial system, there is, in many parts, 
only a membrane, a skin, a thread. For which reason, 
this system lies deep under the integuments; whereas 
the veins, in which the mischief that ensues from 
injuring the coats is much less, lie in general above 
the arteries; come nearer to the surface; are more 

It maybe farther observed concerning the two systems 
taken together, that though the arterial, with its trunk 
and branches and small twigs, may be imagined to issue 
or proceed ; in other words, to grow from the heart ; 
like a plant from its root, or the fibres of a leaf from 
its foot-stalk (which however, were it so, would be only 
to resolve one mechanism into another) ; yet the venal, 
the returning system, can never be formed in this 
manner. The arteries might go on shooting out from 
their extremities, i. e. lengthening and subdividing 
indefinitely ; but an inverted system, continually uniting 
its streams, instead of dividing, and thus carrying back 
what the other system carried out, could not be referred 
to the same process. 

II. The next thing to be considered is the engine 


which works this machinery, viz. the heart. For our 
purpose it is unnecessary to ascertain the principle upon 
which the heart acts. Whether it be irritation excited 
by the contact of the blood, by the influx of the nervous 
fluid, or whatever else be the cause of its motion, it is 
something which is capable of producing, in a living 
muscular fibre, reciprocal contraction and relaxation. 
This is the power we have to work with : and the in- 
quiry is, how this power is applied in the instance 
before us. There is provided, in the central part of 
the body, a hollow muscle, invested with spiral fibres, 
running in both directions, the layers intersecting one 
another; in some animals, however, appearing to be 
semicircular rather than spiral. By the contraction of 
these fibres, the sides of the muscular cavities are 
necessarily squeezed together, so as to force out from 
them any fluid which they may at that time contain : 
by the relaxation of the same fibres, the cavities are in 
their turn dilated, and, of course, prepared to admit 
every fluid which may be poured into them. Into 
these cavities are inserted the great trunks, both of the 
arteries which carry out the blood, and of the veins 
which bring it back. This is a general account of the 
apparatus ; and the simplest idea of its action is, that, 
by each contraction, a portion of blood is forced by a 
syringe into the arteries; and, at each dilatation, an 
equal portion is received from the veins. This pro- 
duces, at each pulse, a motion, and change in the mass 
of blood, to the amount of what the cavity contains, 
which in a full-grown human heart I understand is 
about an ounce, or two table-spoons full. How quickly 
these changes succeed one another, and by this suc- 
cession how sufficient they are to support a stream or 
circulation throughout the system, may be understood 


by the following computation, abridged from Keill's 
Anatomy, p. 117> ed. 3: " Each ventricle will at least 
contain one ounce of blood. The heart contracts four 
thousand times in one hour; from which it follows, that 
there pass through the heart, every hour, four thousand 
ounces, or three hundred and fifty pounds of blood. 
Now the whole mass of blood is said to be about twenty- 
five pounds ; so that a quantity of blood, equal to the 
whole mass of blood, passes through the heart fourteen 
times in one hour; which is about once in every four 
minutes." Consider what an affair this is, when we 
come to very large animals. The aorta of a whale is 
larger in the bore than the main pipe of the water- 
works at London-Bridge; and the water roaring in its 
passage through that pipe is inferior, in impetus and 
velocity, to the blood gushing from the w 7 hale's heart. 
Hear Dr. Hunter's account of the dissection of a whale: 
— " The aorta measured a foot diameter. Ten or fifteen 
gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a stroke 
with an immense velocity, through a tube of a foot dia- 
meter. The whole idea fills the mind with wonder*." 
The account which we have here stated, of the in- 
jection of blood into the arteries by the contraction, and 
of the corresponding reception of it from the veins by 
the dilatation, of the cavities of the heart, and of the 
circulation being thereby maintained through the blood- 
vessels of the body, is true, but imperfect. The heart 
performs this office, but it is in conjunction with another 
of equal curiosity and importance. It was necessary 
that the blood should be successively brought into con- 
tact, or contiguity, or proximity with the air. I do not 
know that the chymical reason, upon which this neces- 
sity is founded, has been yet sufficiently explored. It 
* Dr. Hunter's Axcount of the Dissection of a Whale. (Phil. Trans.) 


seems to be made appear, that the atmosphere which we 
breathe is a mixture of two kinds of air; one pure and 
vital, the other, for the purposes of life, effete, foul, and 
noxious; that when we have drawn in our breath, the 
blood in the lungs imbibes from the air, thus brought 
into contiguity with it, a portion of its pure ingredient, 
and at the same time gives out the effete or corrupt air 
which it contained, and which is carried away, along 
with the halitus, every time we expire. At least, by 
comparing the air which is breathed from the lungs, 
with the air which enters the lungs, it is found to have 
lost some of its pure part, and to have brought away 
with it an addition of its impure part. Whether these 
experiments satisfy the question, as to the need which 
the blood stands in of being visited by continual accesses 
of air, is not for us to inquire into, nor material to our 
argument: it is sufficient to know, that, in the consti- 
tution of most animals, such a necessity exists, and that 
the air, by some means or other, must be introduced 
into a near communication with the blood. The lungs 
of animals are constructed for this purpose. They con- 
sist of blood-vessels and air-vessels, lying close to each 
other ; and whenever there is a branch of the trachea 
or windpipe, there is a branch accompanying it of the 
vein and artery, and the air-vessel is always in the 
middle between the blood-vessels # . The internal sur- 
face of these vessels, upon which the application of the 
air to the blood depends, would, if collected and ex- 
panded, be, in a man, equal to a superficies of fifteen 
feet square. Now, in order to give the blood in its 
course the benefit of this organisation (and this is the 
part of the subject with which we are chiefly concerned), 
the following operation takes place. As soon as the 
* Keill's Anatomy, p. 121. 


blood is received by the heart from the veins of the 
body, and before that is sent out again into its arteries, 
it is carried, by the force of the contraction of the heart, 
and by means of a separate and supplementary artery, 
to the lungs, and made to enter the vessels of the lungs; 
from which, after it has undergone the action, whatever 
it be, of that viscus, it is brought back by a large vein 
once more to the heart, in order, when thus concocted 
and prepared, to be thence distributed anew into the 
system. This assigns to the heart a double office. The 
pulmonary circulation is a system within a system ; and 
one action of the heart is the origin of both. 

For this complicated function, four cavities become 
necessary; and four are accordingly provided: two, 
called ventricles, which send out the blood, viz. one 
into the lungs, in the first instance; the other into the 
mass, after it has returned from the lungs ; two others 
also, called auricles, which receive the blood from the 
veins; viz. one, as it comes immediately from the body; 
the other, as the same blood comes a second time after 
its circulation through the lungs. So that there are 
two receiving cavities, and two forcing cavities. The 
structure of the heart has reference to the lungs ; for 
without the lungs, one of each would have been suf- 
ficient. The translation of the blood in the heart itself 
is after this manner. The receiving cavities respectively 
communicate with the forcing cavities, and, by their 
contraction, unload the received blood into them. The 
forcing cavities, when it is their turn to contract, com- 
pel the same blood into the mouths of the arteries. 

The account here given will not convey to a reader, 
ignorant of anatomy, any thing like an accurate notion 
of the form, action, or use of the parts (nor can any 
short and popular account do this) ; but it is abundantly 


sufficient to testify contrivance ; and although imperfect, 
being true as far as it goes, may be relied upon for the 
only purpose for which we offer it, the purpose of this 

" The wisdom of the Creator," saith Hamburgher, 
" is in nothing seen more gloriously than in the heart. " 
And how T well doth it execute its office! An anato- 
mist, who understood the structure of the heart, might 
say beforehand that it would play ; but he would ex- 
pect, I think, from the complexity of its mechanism, 
and the delicacy of many of its parts, that it should 
always be liable to derangement, or that it would soon 
work itself out. Yet shall this wonderful machine go, 
night and day, for eighty years together, at the rate of 
a hundred thousand strokes every twenty-four hours, 
having, at every stroke, a great resistance to overcome ; 
and shall continue this action for this length of time, 
without disorder and without weariness ! 

But farther : from the account which has been given 
of the mechanism of the heart, it is evident that it must 
require the interposition of valves; that the success in- 
deed of its action must depend upon these; for when 
any one of its cavities contracts, the necessary tendency 
of the force will be to drive the enclosed blood, not 
only into the mouth of the artery where it ought to go, 
but also back again into the mouth of the vein from 
which it flowed. In like manner, when by the relax- 
ation of the fibres the same cavity is dilated, the blood 
would not only run into it from the vein, which was 
the course intended, but back from the artery, through 
which it ought to be moving forward. The way of pre- 
venting a reflux of the fluid, in both these cases, is to 
fix valves, which, like flood-gates, may open a way to 
the stream in one direction, and shut up the passage 


against it in another. The heart, constituted as it is, 
can no more work without valves, than a pump can. 
When the piston descends in a pump, if it were not for 
the stoppage by the valve beneath, the motion would 
only thrust down the water which it had before drawn 
up. A similar consequence would frustrate the action 
of the heart. Valves, therefore, properly disposed, i. e. 
properly with respect to the course of the blood which 
it is necessary to promote, are essential to the con- 
trivance. And valves so disposed, are accordingly 
provided. A valve is placed in the communication 
between each auricle and its ventricle, lest, when the 
ventricle contracts, part of the blood should get back 
again into the auricle, instead of the whole entering, 
as it ought to do, the mouth of the artery. A valve is 
also fixed at the mouth of each of the great arteries 
which take the blood from the heart; leaving the 
passage free, so long as the blood holds its proper 
course forward ; closing it, whenever the blood, in con- 
sequence of the relaxation of the ventricle, would 
attempt to flow back. There is some variety in the 
construction of these valves, though all the valves of 
the body act nearly upon the same principle, and are 
destined to the same use. In general they consist of a 
thin membrane, lying close to the side of the vessel, 
and consequently allowing an open passage whilst the 
stream runs one way, but thrust out from the side by 
the fluid getting behind it, and opposing the passage of 
the blood, when it would flow the other way. Where 
more than one membrane is employed, the different 
membranes only compose one valve. Their joint action 
fulfils the office of a valve : for instance ; over the en- 
trance of the right auricle of the heart into the right 
ventricle, three of these skins or membranes are fixed, 


of a triangular figure, the bases of the triangles fastened 
to the flesh; the sides and summits loose; but, though 
loose, connected by threads of a determinate length, 
with certain small fleshy prominences adjoining. The 
effect of this construction is, that, when the ventricle 
contracts, the blood endeavouring to escape in all 
directions, and amongst other directions pressing up- 
wards, gets between these membranes and the sides of 
the passage; and thereby forces them up into such a 
position, as that, together, they constitute, when raised, 
a hollow cone (the strings, before spoken of, hindering 
them from proceeding or separating farther); which 
cone, entirely occupying the passage, prevents the re- 
turn of the blood into the auricle. A shorter account 
of the matter may be this : So long as the blood proceeds 
in its proper course, the membranes which compose the 
valve are pressed close to the side of the vessel, and oc- 
casion no impediment to the circulation : when the blood 
would regurgitate, they are raised from the side of the 
vessel, and, meeting in the middle of its cavity, shut up 
the channel. Can any one doubt of contrivance here; 
or is it possible to shut our eyes against the proof of it? 
This valve, also, is not more curious in its structure, 
than it is important in its office. Upon the play of the 
valve, even upon the proportional length of the strings 
or fibres which check the ascent of the membranes, de- 
pends, as it should seem, nothing less than the life itself 
of the animal. We may here likewise repeat, what we 
before observed concerning some of the ligaments of 
the body, that they could not be formed by any action 
of the parts themselves. There are cases in which, 
although good uses appear to arise from the shape or 
configuration of a part, yet that shape or configuration 
itself may seem to be produced by the action of the 


part, or by the action or pressure of adjoining parts. 
Thus the bend and the internal smooth concavity of 
the ribs may be attributed to the equal pressure of the 
soft bowels; the particular shape of some bones and 
joints, to the traction of the annexed muscles, or to 
the position of contiguous muscles. But valves could 
not be so formed. Action and pressure are all against 
them. The blood, in its proper course, has no tendency 
to produce such things; and in its improper or reflected 
current, has a tendency to prevent their production. 
Whilst we see, therefore, the use and necessity of this 
machinery, we can look to no other account of its 
origin or formation than the intending mind of a 
Creator. Nor can we without admiration reflect, that 
such thin membranes, such weak and tender instru- 
ments, as these valves are, should be able to hold out 
for seventy or eighty years. 

Here also we cannot consider but with gratitude, how 
happy it is that our vital motions are involuntary. We 
should have enough to do, if we had to keep our hearts 
beating, and our stomachs at work. Did these things 
depend, we will not say upon our effort, but upon our 
bidding, our care, or our attention, they would leave us 
leisure for nothing else. We must have been conti- 
nually upon the watch, and continually in fear; nor 
would this constitution have allowed of sleep. 

It might perhaps be expected, that an organ so pre- 
cious, of such central and primary importance as the 
heart is, should be defended by a case. The fact is, 
that a membranous purse or bag, made of strong, tough 
materials, is provided for it; holding the heart within 
its cavity ; sitting loosely and easily about it ; guarding 
its substance, without confining its motion; and con- 

vol. IV. i 


taining likewise a spoonful or two of water, just suffi- 
cient to keep the surface of the heart in a state of sup- 
pleness and moisture. How should such a loose cover- 
ing be generated by the action of the heart? Does not 
the enclosing of it in a sack, answering no other purpose 
but that enclosure, show the care that has been taken 
of its preservation ? 

One use of the circulation of the blood probably 
(amongst other uses) is, to distribute nourishment to 
the different parts of the body. How minute and mul- 
tiplied the ramifications of the blood-vessels, for that 
purpose, are ; and how thickly spread, over at least the 
superficies of the body, is proved by the single observa- 
tion, that we cannot prick the point of a pin into the 
flesh, without drawing blood, i. e. without finding a 
blood-vessel. Nor, internally is their diffusion less 
universal. Blood-vessels run along the surface of mem- 
branes, pervade the substance of muscles, penetrate the 
bones. Even into every tooth, we trace, through a 
small hole in the root, an artery to feed the bone, as 
well as a vein to bring back the spare blood from it -> 
both which, with the addition of an accompanying nerve, 
form a thread only a little thicker than a horse-hair. 

Wherefore, when the nourishment taken in at the 
mouth has once reached, and mixed itself with, the 
blood, every part of the body is in the way of being 
supplied with it. And this introduces another grand 
topic, namely, the manner in which the aliment gets 
into the blood; which is a subject distinct from the 
preceding, and brings us to the consideration of an- 
other entire system of vessels. 

III. For this necessary part of the animal oeconomy, 
an apparatus is provided, in a great measure capable of 


being, what anatomists call, demonstrated, that is, shown 
in the dead body; — and a line or course of conveyance, 
which we can pursue by our examinations. 

First, the food descends by a wide passage into the 
intestines, undergoing two great preparations on its 
way : one, in the mouth by mastication and moisture, — 
(can it be doubted with what design the teeth were 
placed in the road to the stomach, or that there was 
choice in fixing them in this situation?) the other, by 
digestion in the stomach itself. Of this last surprising 
dissolution I say nothing; because it is chymistry, and 
I am endeavouring to display mechanism. The figure 
and position of the stomach (I speak all along with a 
reference to the human organ) are calculated for de- 
taining the food long enough for the action of its 
digestive juice. It has the shape of the pouch of a bag^ 
pipe ; lies across the body ; and the pylorus, or passage 
by which the food leaves it, is somewhat higher in the 
body than the cardia, or orifice by which it enters ; so 
that it is by the contraction of the muscular coat of the 
stomach, that the contents, after having undergone the 
application of the gastric menstruum, are gradually 
pressed out. In dogs and cats, this action of the coats 
of the stomach has been displayed to the eye. It is a 
slow and gentle undulation, propagated from one orifice 
of the stomach to the other. For the same reason that 
I omitted, for the present, offering any observation upon 
the digestive fluid, I shall say nothing concerning the 
bile or the pancreatic juice, farther than to observe upon 
the mechanism, viz. that from the glands in which these 
secretions are elaborated, pipes are laid into the first of 
the intestines, through which pipes the product of each 
gland flows into that bowel, and is there mixed with the 
aliment, as soon almost as it passes the stomach ; adding 

i °l 


also as a remark, how grievously this same bile offends 
the stomach itself, yet cherishes the vessel that lies 
next to it. 

Secondly, We have now the aliment in the intestines, 
converted into pulp; and though lately consisting of 
ten different viands, reduced to nearly a uniform sub- 
stance, and to a state fitted for yielding its essence, 
which is called chyle, but which is milk, or more nearly 
resembling milk than any other liquor with which it 
can be compared. For the straining off this fluid from 
the digested aliment in the course of its long progress 
through the body, myriads of capillary tubes, i. e. pipes 
as small as hairs, open their orifices into the cavity of 
every part of the intestines. These tubes, which are 
so fine and slender as not to be visible unless when dis- 
tended with chyle, soon unite into larger branches. 
The pipes, formed by this union, terminate in glands, 
from which other pipes of a still larger diameter arising, 
carry the chyle from all parts, into a common reservoir 
or receptacle. This receptacle is a bag of size enough 
to hold about two table-spoons full ; and from this ves- 
sel a duct or main pipe proceeds, climbing up the back 
part of the chest, and afterwards creeping along the 
gullet till it reach the neck. Here it meets the river: 
here it discharges itself into a large vein, which soon 
conveys the chyle, now flowing along with the old blood, 
to the heart. This whole route can be exhibited to the 
eye; nothing is left to be supplied by imagination or 
conjecture. Now, beside the subserviency of this 
structure, collectively considered, to a manifest and 
necessary purpose, we may remark two or three sepa- 
rate particulars in it, which show, not only the con- 
trivance, but the perfection of it. We may remark, 
first, the length of the intestines, which, in the human 


subject, is six times that of the body. Simply for a 
passage, these voluminous bowels, this prolixity of gut, 
seems in no wise necessary : but in order to allow time 
and space for the successive extraction of the chyle from 
the digestive aliment, namely, that the chyle which 
escapes the lacteals of one part of the guts may be taken 
up by those of some other part, the length of the canal 
is of evident use and conduciveness. Secondly, we 
must also remark their peristaltic motion; which is 
made up of contractions, following one another like 
waves upon the surface of a fluid, and not unlike what 
we observe in the body of an earthworm crawling along 
the ground; and which is effected by the joint action 
of longitudinal and of spiral, or rather perhaps of a 
great number of separate semicircular fibres. This 
curious action pushes forward the grosser part of the 
aliment, at the same time that the more subtile parts, 
which we call chyle, are, by a series of gentle com- 
pressions, squeezed into the narrow orifices of the lacteal 
veins. Thirdly, it was necessary that these tubes, which 
we denominate lacteals, or their mouths at least, should 
be made as narrow as possible, in order to deny admis- 
sion into the blood to any particle which is of size 
enough to make a lodgement afterwards in the small 
arteries, and thereby to obstruct the circulation : and 
it was also necessary that this extreme tenuity should 
be compensated by multitude ; for a large quantity of 
chyle (in ordinary constitutions, not less, it has been 
computed, than two or three quarts in a day) is, by 
some means or other, to be passed through them. Ac- 
cordingly, we find the number of the lacteals exceeding 
all powers of computation ; and their pipes so fine and 
slender, as not to be visible, unless filled, to the naked 
eye ; and their orifices, which open into the intestines, 


so small as not to be discernible even by the best mi- 
croscope. Fourthly, the main pipe which carries the 
chyle from the reservoir to the blood, viz. the thoracic 
duct, being fixed in an almost upright position, and 
wanting that advantage of propulsion which the arteries 
possess, is furnished with a succession of valves to check 
the ascending fluid, when once it has passed them, from 
falling back. These valves look upward, so as to leave 
the ascent free, but to prevent the return of the chyle* 
if, for want of sufficient force to push it on, its weight 
should at any time cause it to descend. Fifthly, the 
chyle enters the blood in an odd place, but perhaps the 
most commodious place possible, viz. at a large vein in 
the neck, so situated with respect to the circulation, as 
Speedily to bring the mixture to the heart. And this 
seems to be a circumstance of great moment ; for had 
the chyle entered the blood at an artery, or at a distant 
vein, the fluid, composed of the old and the new ma- 
terials, must have performed a considerable part of the 
circulation, before it received that churning in the 
lungs, which is, probably, necessary for the intimate 
and perfect union of the old blood with the recent 
chyle. Who could have dreamt of a communication 
between the cavity of the intestines and the left great 
vein of the neck f Who could have suspected that this 
communication should be the medium through which 
all nourishment is derived to the body ; or this the place, 
where, by a side inlet, the important junction is formed 
between the blood and the material which feeds it? 

We postponed the consideration of digestion, lest it 
should interrupt us in tracing the course of the food to 
the blood ; but in treating of the alimentary system, so 
principal a part of the process cannot be omitted. 

Of the gastric juice, the immediate agent by which 


that change which food undergoes in our stomachs is 
effected, we shall take our account from the numerous, 
careful, and varied experiments of the Abbe Spallanzani, 

1. It is not a simple diluent, but a real solvent. A 
quarter of an ounce of beef had scarcely touched the 
stomach of a crow, when the solution began. 

2. It has not the nature of saliva; it has not the 
nature of bile ; but is distinct from both. By experi- 
ments out of the body it appears, that neither of these 
secretions acts upon alimentary substances, in the same 
manner as the gastric juice acts. 

3. Digestion is not putrefaction: for the digesting 
fluid resists putrefaction most pertinaciously ; nay, not 
only checks its farther progress, but restores putrid 

4. It is not a fermentative process : for the solution 
begins at the surface, and proceeds towards the centre, 
contrary to the order in which fermentation acts and 

5. It is not the digestion of heat: for the cold maw 
of a cod or sturgeon will dissolve the shells of crabs or 
lobsters, harder than the sides of the stomach which 
contains them. 

In a word, animal digestion carries about it the marks 
of being a power and a process completely sui generis; 
distinct from every other ; at least from every chymical 
process with which we are acquainted. And the most 
wonderful thing about it is its appropriation ; its sub- 
serviency to the particular ceconomy of each animal. 
The gastric juice of an owl, falcon, or kite, will not 
touch grain ; no, not even to finish the macerated and 
half-digested pulse which is left in the crops of the 
sparrows that the bird devours. In poultry, the tri- 
turation of the gizzard, and the gastric juice, conspire 


in the work of digestion. The gastric juice will not 
dissolve the grain whilst it is whole. Entire grains of 
barley, enclosed in tubes or spherules, are not affected 
by it. But if the same grain be by any means broken 
or ground, the gastric juice immediately lays hold of it. 
Here then is wanted, and here we find, a combination 
of mechanism and chymistry. For the preparatory 
grinding, the gizzard lends its mill. And as all mill- 
work should be strong, its structure is so, beyond that 
of any other muscle belonging to the animal. The 
internal coat also, or lining of the gizzard, is, for the 
same purpose, hard and cartilaginous. But, forasmuch 
as this is not the sort of animal substance suited for the 
reception of glands or for secretion, the gastric juice, in 
this family, is not supplied, as in membranous stomachs, 
by the stomach itself, but by the gullet, in which the 
feeding-glands are placed, and from which it trickles 
down into the stomach. 

In sheep, the gastric fluid has no effect in digesting 
plants, unless they have been previously masticated. It 
only produces a slight maceration ; nearly such as com- 
mon water would produce, in a degree of heat somewhat 
exceeding the medium temperature of the atmosphere. 
But provided that the plant has been reduced to pieces 
by chewing, the gastric juice then proceeds with it, 
first, by softening its substance; next, by destroying 
its natural consistency; and lastly, by dissolving it so 
completely, as not even to spare the toughest and most 
stringy parts, such as the nerves of the leaves. 

So far our accurate and indefatigable Abbe. — Dr. 
Stevens, of Edinburgh, in 1777> found, by experiments 
tried with perforated balls, that the gastric juice of the 
sheep and the ox speedily dissolved vegetables, but 
made no impression upon beef, mutton, and other 


animal bodies. Dr. Hunter discovered a property of 
this fluid, of a most curious kind ; viz. that in the sto- 
machs of animals which feed upon flesh, irresistibly as 
this fluid acts upon animal substances, it is only upon 
the dead substance that it operates at all. The living 
fibre suffers no injury from lying in contact with it. 
Worms and insects are found alive in the stomachs of 
such animals. The coats of the human stomach, in a 
healthy state, are insensible to its presence; yet in 
cases of sudden death (wherein the gastric juice, not 
having been weakened by disease, retains its activity), 
it has been known to eat a hole through the bowel 
which contains it*. How nice is this discrimination of 
action, yet how necessary! 

But to return to our hydraulics. 

IV. The gall-bladder is a very remarkable contriv- 
ance. It is the reservoir of a canal. It does not form 
the channel itself, i. e. the direct communication be- 
tween the liver and the intestine, which is by another 
passage, viz. the ductus hepaticus, continued under the 
name of the ductus communis ; but it lies adjacent to 
this channel, joining it by a duct of its own, the duct 
cysticus ; by which structure it is enabled, as occasion 
may require, to add its contents to, and increase, the 
flow of bile into the duodenum. And the position of 
the gall-bladder is such as to apply this structure to the 
best advantage. In its natural situation, it touches the 
exterior surface of the stomach, and consequently is 
compressed by the distention of that vessel : the effect 
of which compression is to force out from the bag, and 
send into the duodenum, an extraordinary quantity 
of bile, to meet the extraordinary demand which the 
repletion of the stomach by food is about to occasion f. 
* Phil. Trans, vol. lxii. p. 447- t Keill's Anat. p. 64. 


Cheselden describes * the gall-bladder as seated against 
the duodenum, and thereby liable to have its fluid 
pressed out, by the passage of the aliment through" that 
cavity ; which likewise will have the effect of causing it 
to be received into the intestine, at a right time, and 
in a due proportion. 

There may be other purposes answered by this con- 
trivance; and it is probable that there are. The con- 
tents of the gall-bladder are not exactly of the same 
kind as what passes from the liver through the direct 
passage t. It is possible that the gall may be changed, 
and for some purposes meliorated, by keeping. 

The entrance of the gall-duct into the duodenum 
furnishes another observation. Whenever either smaller 
tubes are inserted into larger tubes, or tubes into vessels 
and cavities, such receiving tubes, vessels, or cavities, 
being subject to muscular constriction, we always find 
a contrivance to prevent regurgitation. In some cases, 
valves are used; in other cases, amongst which is that 
now before us, a different expedient is resorted to, which 
may be thus described : The gall-duct enters the duo- 
denum obliquely ; after it has pierced the first coat, it 
runs near two fingers' breadth between the coats before 
it opens into the cavity of the intestine t. The same 
contrivance is used in another part, where there is 
exactly the same occasion for it, viz. in the insertion of 
the ureters in the bladder. These enter the bladder 
near its neck, running obliquely for the space of an inch 
between its coats §. It is, in both cases, sufficiently 
evident, that this structure has a necessary mechanical 
tendency to resist regurgitation; for whatever force 
acts in such a direction as to urge the fluid back into 

* Anat. p. 164. t Keill (from Malpighius), p. 63. 

% Keill's Anat. p. 62. § Ches. Anat. p. 260. 


the orifices of the tubes, must, at the same time, stretch 
the coats of the vessels, and thereby compress that part 
of the tube which is included between them. 

V. Amongst the vessels of the human body, the 
pipe which conveys the saliva from the place where it is 
made, to the place where it is wanted, deserves to be 
reckoned amongst the most intelligible pieces of me- 
chanism with which we are acquainted. The saliva, 
we all know, is used in the mouth ; but much of it is 
produced on the outside of the cheek, by the parotid 
gland, which lies between the ear and the angle of the 
lower jaw. In order to carry the secreted juice to its 
destination, there is laid from the gland on the outside, 
a pipe, about the thickness of a wheat straw, and about 
three fingers' breadth in length; which, after riding 
over the masseter muscle, bores for itself a hole through 
the very middle of the cheek; enters by that hole, 
which is a complete perforation of the buccinator muscle, 
into the mouth; and there discharges its fluid very 

VI. Another exquisite structure, differing indeed from 
the four preceding instances, in that it does not relate 
to the conveyance of fluids, but still belonging, like 
these, to the class of pipes or conduits of the body, is 
seen in the larynx. We all know that there go down 
the throat two pipes, one leading to the stomach, the 
other to the lungs; the one being the passage for the 
food, the other for the breath and voice : we know also 
that both these passages open into the bottom of the 
mouth; the gullet, necessarily, for the conveyance of 
food; and the wind-pipe, for speech and the modulation 
of sound, not much less so: therefore the difficulty 
was, the passages being so contiguous, to prevent the 
food, especially the liquids, which we swallow into the 
stomach, from entering the wind-pipe, i. e. the road to 


the lungs; the consequence of which error, when it 
does happen, is perceived by the convulsive throes that 
are instantly produced. This business, which is very 
nice, is managed in this manner. The gullet (the pass- 
age for food) opens into the mouth like the cone or 
upper part of a funnel, the capacity of which forms 
indeed the bottom of the mouth. Into the side of this 
funnel, at the part which lies the lowest, enters the 
wind-pipe, by a chink or slit, with a lid or flap, like a 
little tongue, accurately fitted to the orifice. The 
solids or liquids which we swallow, pass over this lid or 
flap, as they descend by the funnel into the gullet. 
Both the weight of the food, and the action of the 
muscles concerned in swallowing, contribute to keep the 
lid close down upon the aperture, whilst any thing is 
passing ; whereas, by means of its natural cartilaginous 
spring, it raises itself a little, as soon as the food is 
passed, thereby allowing a free inlet and outlet for the 
respiration of air by the lungs. Such is its structure: 
And we may here remark the almost complete success 
of the expedient, viz. how seldom it fails of its purpose, 
compared with the number of instances in which it 
fulfils it. Reflect how frequently we swallow, how 
constantly we breathe. In a city-feast, for example, 
what deglutition, what anhelation ! yet does this little 
cartilage, the epiglottis, so effectually interpose its 
office, so securely guard the entrance of the wind-pipe, 
that whilst morsel after morsel, draught after draught, 
are coursing one another over it, an accident of a 
crum or a drop slipping into this passage (which never- 
theless must be opened for the breath every second of 
time), excites in the whole company, not only alarm by 
its danger, but surprise by its novelty. Not two guests 
are choked in a century. 

There is no room for pretending that the action of 


the parts may have gradually formed the epiglottis: I 
do not mean in the same individual, but in a succession 
of generations. Not only the action of the parts has 
no such tendency, but the animal could not live, nor 
consequently the parts act, either without it, or with it 
in a half-formed state. The species was not to wait for 
the gradual formation or expansion of a part which was, 
from the first, necessary to the life of the individual. 

Not only is the larynx curious, but the whole wind- 
pipe possesses a structure adapted to its peculiar office. 
It is made up (as any one may perceive by putting his 
fingers to his throat) of stout cartilaginous ringlets, 
placed at small and equal distances from one another. 
Now this is not the case with any other of the nu- 
merous conduits of the body. The use of these car- 
tilages is to keep the passage for the air constantly open ; 
which they do mechanically. A pipe with soft mem- 
branous coats, liable to collapse and close when empty, 
would not have answered here; although this be the 
general vascular structure, and a structure which serves 
very well for those tubes which are kept in a state of 
perpetual distention by the fluid they enclose, or which 
afford a passage to solid and protruding substances. 

Nevertheless (which is another particularity well 
worthy of notice), these rings are not complete, that is, 
are not cartilaginous and stiff all round; but their 
hinder part, which is contiguous to the gullet, is mem- 
branous and soft, easily yielding to the distentions of 
that organ occasioned by the descent of solid food. The 
same rings are also bevelled off at the upper and lower 
edges, the better to close upon one another, when the 
trachea is compressed or shortened. 

The constitution of the trachea may suggest likewise 
another reflection. The membrane which lines its in- 


side, is, perhaps, the most sensible, irritable membrane 
of the body. It rejects the touch of a crum of bread, 
or a drop of water, with a spasm which convulses the 
whole frame; yet, left to itself, and its proper office, 
the intromission of air alone, nothing can be so quiet. 
It does not even make itself felt; a man does not know 
that he has a trachea. This capacity of perceiving with 
such acuteness, this impatience of offence, yet perfect 
rest and ease when let alone, are properties, one would 
have thought, not likely to reside in the same subject. 
It is to the junction, however, of these almost incon- 
sistent qualities, in this, as well as in some other de- 
licate parts of the body, that we owe our safety and our 
comfort; — our safety to their sensibility, our comfort 
to their repose. 

The larynx, or rather the whole wind-pipe taken 
together (for the larynx is only the upper part of the 
wind-pipe), besides its other uses, is also a musical in- 
strument, that is to say, it is mechanism expressly 
adapted to the modulation of sound ; for it has been 
found upon trial, that, by relaxing or tightening the 
tendinous bands at the extremity of the wind-pipe, and 
blowing in at the other end, all the cries and notes 
might be produced of which the living animal was ca- 
pable. It can be sounded, just as a pipe or flute is 

Birds, says Bonnet, have, at the lower end of the 
wind-pipe, a conformation like the reed of a hautboy, 
for the modulation of their notes. A tuneful bird is a 
ventriloquist. The seat of the song is in the breast. 

The use of the lungs in the system has been said to 
be obscure; one use, however, is plain, though, in some 
sense, external to the system, and that is, the formation, 
in conjunction with the larynx, of voice and speech. 


They are, to animal utterance, what the bellows are to 
the organ. 

For the sake of method, we have considered animal 
bodies under three divisions ; their bones, their muscles, 
and their vessels : and we have stated our observations 
upon these parts separately. But this is to diminish 
the strength of the argument. The wisdom of the 
Creator is seen, not in their separate but their collective 
action ; in their mutual subserviency and dependence \ 
in their contributing together to one effect and one use. 
It has been said, that a man cannot lift his hand to his 
head, without finding enough to convince him of the 
existence of a God. And it is well said ; for he has 
only to reflect, familiar as this action is, and simple as 
it seems to be, how many things are requisite for the 
performing of it ; how many things which we under- 
stand, to say nothing of many more, probably, which 
we do not; viz. first, a long, hard, strong cylinder, in 
order to give to the arm its firmness and tension ; but 
which, being rigid, and, in its substance, inflexible, can 
only turn upon joints: secondly, therefore, joints for 
this purpose ; one at the shoulder to raise the arm, an- 
other at the elbow to bend it ; these joints continually 
fed with a soft mucilage to make the parts slip easily 
upon one another, and holden together by strong braces, 
to keep them in their position : then, thirdly, strings 
and wires, i. e. muscles and tendons, artificially inserted 
for the purpose of drawing the bones in the directions 
in which the joints allow them to move. Hitherto we 
seem to understand the mechanism pretty well ; and, 
understanding this, we possess enough for our con- 
clusion : Nevertheless, we have hitherto only a machine 


standing still ; a dead organization, — an apparatus. To 
put the system in a state of activity; to set it at work; 
a farther provision is necessary, viz. a communication 
with the brain by means of nerves. We know the 
existence of this communication, because we can see the 
communicating threads, and can trace them to the brain : 
its necessity we also know, because if the thread be cut, 
if the communication be intercepted, the muscle be- 
comes paralytic: but beyond this, we know little; the 
organisation being too minute and subtile for our in- 

To what has been enumerated, as officiating in the 
single act of a man's raising his hand to his head, must 
be added likewise, all that is necessary, and all that 
contributes to the growth, nourishment, and sustenta- 
tion of the limb, the repair of its waste, the preservation 
of its health: such as the circulation of the blood 
through every part of it ; its lymphatics, exhalants, ab- 
sorbents; its excretions and integuments. All these 
share in the result ; join in the effect : and how all these, 
or any of them, come together without a designing, 
disposing intelligence, it is impossible to conceive. 



Contemplating an animal body in its collective 
capacity, we cannot forget to notice, what a number of 
instruments are brought together, and often within how 
small a compass. It is a cluster of contrivances. In a 
canary-bird, for instance, and in the single ounce of 


matter which composes his body (but which seems to be 
all employed), we have instruments for eating, for di- 
gesting, for nourishment, for breathing, for generation, 
for running, for flying, for seeing, for hearing, for 
smelling; each appropriate, — each entirely different 
from all the rest. 

The human, or indeed the animal frame, considered 
as a mass or assemblage, exhibits in its composition three 
properties, which have long struck my mind as indu- 
bitable evidences not only of design, but of a great deal 
of attention and accuracy in prosecuting the design. 

I. The first is, the exact correspondency of the two 
sides of the same animal ; the right hand answering to 
the left, leg to leg, eye to eye, one side of the counte- 
nance to the other; and with a precision, to imitate 
which, in any tolerable degree, forms one of the dif- 
ficulties of statuary, and requires, on the part of the 
artist, a constant attention to this property of his work, 
distinct from every other. 

It is the most difficult thing that can be to get a wig 
made even ; yet how seldom is the face awry ! And 
what care is taken that it should not be so, the anatomy 
of its bones demonstrates. The upper part of the face 
is composed of thirteen bones, six on each side, an- 
swering each to each, and the thirteenth, without a 
fellow, in the middle; the lower part of the face is in 
like manner composed of six bones, three on each side 
respectively corresponding, and the lower jaw in the 
centre. In building an arch, could more be done in 
order to make the curve true, i. e. the parts equi-distant 
from the middle, alike in figure and position? 

The exact resemblance of the eyes, considering how 
compounded this organ is in its structure, how various 
and how delicate are the shades of colour with which its 

VOL. IV. k 

li)0 natural theology. 

iris is tinged ; how differently, as to effect upon appear- 
ance, the eye may be mounted in its socket, and how 
differently in different heads eyes actually are set, — is 
a property of animal bodies much to be admired. Of 
ten thousand eyes, I do not know that it would be 
possible to match one, except with its own fellow; or 
to distribute them into suitable pairs by any other 
selection than that which obtains. 

This regularity of the animal structure is rendered 
more remarkable by the three following considerations. 
— First, the limbs, separately taken, have not this cor- 
relation of parts, but the contrary of it. A knife drawn 
down the chine, cuts the human body into two parts, 
externally equal and alike ; you cannot draw a straight 
line which will divide a hand, a foot, the leg, the thigh, 
the cheek, the eye, the ear, into two parts equal and 
alike. Those parts which are placed upon the middle 
or partition line of the body, or which traverse that line, 
as the nose, the tongue, the lips, may be so divided, or, 
more properly speaking, are double organs; but other 
parts cannot. This shows that the correspondency 
which we have been describing does not arise by any 
necessity in the nature of the subject: for, if necessary, 
it would be universal; whereas it is observed only in 
the system or assemblage: it is not true of the separate 
parts; that is to say, it is found where it conduces to 
beauty or utility ; it is not found, where it would sub- 
sist at the expense of both. The two wings of a bird 
always correspond : the two sides of a feather frequently 
do not. In centipedes, millepedes, and the whole tribe 
of insects, no two legs on the same side are alike; yet 
there is the most exact parity between the legs opposite 
to one another. 

2. The next circumstance to be remarked is, that, 


whilst the cavities of the body are so configurated, as 
externally to exhibit the most exact correspondency of 
the opposite sides, the contents of these cavities have no 
such correspondence. A line drawn down the middle 
of the breast, divides the thorax into two sides exactly 
similar; yet these two sides enclose very different con- 
tents. The heart lies on the left side; a lobe of the 
lungs on the right; balancing each other, neither in 
size nor shape. The same thing holds of the abdomen. 
The liver lies on the right side, without any similar 
viscus opposed to it on the left. The spleen indeed is 
situated over-against the liver; but agreeing with the 
liver neither in bulk nor form. There is no equipol- 
lency between these. The stomach is a vessel, both 
irregular in its shape, and oblique in its position. The 
foldings and doublings of the intestines do not present 
a parity of sides. Yet that symmetry which depends 
upon the correlation of the sides, is externally preserved 
throughout the whole trunk; and is the more remark- 
able in the lower parts of it, as the integuments are 
soft ; and the shape, consequently, is not, as the thorax 
is by its ribs, reduced by natural stays. It is evident, 
therefore, that the external proportion does not arise 
from any equality in the shape or pressure of the in- 
ternal contents. What is it indeed but a correction of 
inequalities? an adjustment, by mutual compensation, 
of anomalous forms into a regular congeries? the effect, 
in a word, of artful, and if we Ynight be permitted so to 
speak, of studied collocation? 

3. Similar also to this, is the third observation ; that 
an internal inequality in the feeding vessels is so ma- 
naged, as to produce no inequality of parts which were 
intended to correspond. The right arm answers ac- 
curately to the left, both in size and shape; but the 

k 2 


arterial branches, which supply the two arms, do not 
go off from their trunk, in a pair, in the same manner, 
at the same place, or at the same angle. Under which 
want of similitude, it is very difficult to conceive how 
the same quantity of blood should be pushed through 
each artery; yet the result is right; the two limbs, 
which are nourished by them, perceive no difference of 
supply, no effects of excess or deficiency. 

Concerning the difference of manner, in which the 
subclavian and carotid arteries, upon the different sides 
of the body, separate themselves from the aorta, Che- 
selden seems to have thought, that the advantage which 
the left gain by going off at an angle much more acute 
than the right, is made up to the right, by their going 
off together in one branch*. It is very possible that 
this may be the compensating contrivance: and if it be 
so, how curious, how hydrostatical ! 

II. Another perfection of the animal mass is the 
package. I know nothing which is so surprising. 
Examine the contents of the trunk of any large animal. 
Take notice how soft, how tender, how intricate they 
are; how constantly in action, how necessary to life! 
Reflect upon the danger of any injury to their sub- 
stance, any derangement of their position, any obstruc- 
tion to their office. Observe the heart pumping at the 
centre, at the rate of eighty strokes in a minute; one 
set of pipes carrying the stream away from it, another 
set bringing, in its course, the fluid back to it again ; 
the lungs performing their elaborate office, viz. distend- 
ing and contracting their many thousand vesicles, by a 
reciprocation which cannot cease for a minute; the 
stomach exercising its powerful chymistry ; the bowels 
silently propelling the changed aliment; collecting 
* Ches. Anat. p. 184, eel. 7- 


from it, as it proceeds, and transmitting to the blood, 
an incessant supply of prepared and assimilated nourish- 
ment; that blood pursuing its course; the liver, the 
kidneys, the pancreas, the parotid, with many other 
known and distinguishable glands, drawing off from it, 
all the while, their proper secretions. These several 
operations, together with others more subtile but less 
capable of being investigated, are going on within us, 
at one and the same time. Think of this; and then 
observe how the body itself, the case which holds this 
machinery, is rolled, and jolted, and tossed about, the 
mechanism remaining unhurt, and with very little mo- 
lestation even of its nicest motions. Observe a rope- 
dancer, a tumbler, or a monkey; the sudden inversions 
and contortions which the internal parts sustain by the 
postures into which their bodies are thrown ; or rather 
observe the shocks which these parts, even in ordinary 
subjects, sometimes receive from falls and bruises, or by 
abrupt jerks and twists, without sensible, or with soon- 
recovered, damage. Observe this, and then reflect how 
firmly every part must be secured, how carefully sur- 
rounded, how well tied down and packed together. 

This property of animal bodies has never, I think, 
been considered under a distinct head, or so fully as it 
deserves. I may be allowed therefore, in order to verify 
my observation concerning it, to set forth a short ana- 
tomical detail, though it oblige me to use more technical 
language than I should wish to introduce into a work 
of this kind. 

1. The heart (such care is taken of the centre of 
life) is placed between two soft lobes of the lungs; is 
tied to the mediastinum and to the pericardium ; which 
pericardium is not only itself an exceedingly strong 
membrane, but adheres firmly to the duplicature of the 


mediastinum, and, by its point, to the middle tendon of 
the diaphragm. The heart is also sustained in its place 
by the great blood-vessels which issue from it*. 

2. The lungs are tied to the sternum by the medias- 
tinum before; to the vertebras by the pleura, behind. 
It seems indeed to be the very use of the mediastinum 
(which is a membrane that goes straight through the 
middle of the thorax, from the breast to the back) to 
keep the contents of the thorax in their places; in par- 
ticular to hinder one lobe of the lungs from incommoding 
another, or the parts of the lungs from pressing upon 
each other when we lie on one sidet. 

3. The liver is fastened in the body by two liga- 
ments: the first, which is large and strong, comes from 
the covering of the diaphragm, and penetrates the sub- 
stance of the liver; the second is the umbilical vein, 
which, after birth, degenerates into a ligament. The 
first, which is the principal, fixes the liver in its situation, 
whilst the body holds an erect posture; the second pre- 
vents it from pressing upon the diaphragm when we lie 
down: and both together sling or suspend the liver 
when we lie upon our backs, so that it may not compress 
or obstruct the ascending vena cava J, to which belongs 
the important office of returning the blood from the 
body to the heart. 

4. The bladder is tied to the navel by the urachus; 
transformed into a ligament : thus, what was a passage 
for urine to the foetus, becomes, after birth, a support 
or stay to the bladder. The peritonaeum also keeps the 
viscera from confounding themselves with, or pressing 
irregularly upon, the bladder; for the kidneys and 
bladder are contained in a distinct duplicature of that 

- * Keill's Anat. p. 107, ed. 3. t lb. p. 1 19, ed. 3. 

% Ches. Anat. p. 162. 


membrane, being thereby partitioned off from the other 
contents of the abdomen. 

5. The kidneys are lodged in a bed of fat. 

6. The pancreas, or sweetbread, is strongly tied to 
the peritonaeum, which is the great wrapping sheet, 
that encloses all the bowels contained in the lower 

7- The spleen also is confined to its place by an ad- 
hesion to the peritonaeum and diaphragm, and by a 
connexion with the omentum t. It is possible, in my 
opinion, that the spleen may be merely a stuffing, a 
soft cushion to fill up a vacancy or hollow, which, un- 
less occupied, would leave the package loose and un- 
steady : for, supposing that it answers no other purpose 
than this, it must be vascular, and admit of a circulation 
through it, in order to be kept alive, or be a part of a 
living body. 

8. The omentum, epiploon, or cawl, is an apron 
tucked up, or doubling upon itself, at its lowest part. 
The upper edge is tied to the bottom of the stomach 
to the spleen, as hath already been observed, and to 
part of the duodenum. The reflected edge also, after 
forming the doubling, comes up behind the front flap, 
and is tied to the colon and adjoining viscera X. 

9. The septa of the brain probably prevent one part 
of the organ from pressing with too great a weight upon 
another part. The processes of the dura mater divide 
the cavity of the skull, like so many inner partition 
walls, and thereby confine each hemisphere and lobe of 
the brain to the chamber which is assigned to it, with- 
out its being liable to rest upon, or intermix with, the 
neighbouring parts. The great art and caution of 
packing, is to prevent one thing hurting another. 

* Keill's Anat. p. 57. t dies. Anat. p. 167. \ Ibid. 


This, in the head, the chest, and the abdomen, of an 
animal body, is, amongst other methods, provided for 
by membranous partitions and wrappings, which keep 
the parts separate. 

The above may serve as a short account of the manner 
in which the principal viscera are sustained in their 
places. But of the provisions for this purpose, by far, 
in my opinion, the most curious, and where also such 
a provision was most wanted, is in the guts. It is 
pretty evident, that a long narrow tube (in man, about 
five times the length of the body) laid from side to side 
in folds upon one another, winding in oblique and cir- 
cuitous directions, composed also of a soft and yielding 
substance, must, without some extraordinary precau- 
tion for its safety, be continually displaced by the va- 
rious, sudilen, and abrupt motions of the body which 
contains it. I should expect that, if not bruised or 
wounded by every fall, or leap, or twist, it would be 
entangled, or be involved with itself; or, at the least, 
slipped and shaken out of the order in which it is dis- 
posed, and which order is necessary to be preserved, 
for the carrying on of the important functions which it 
has to execute in the animal osconomy. Let us see, 
therefore, how a danger so serious, and yet so natural 
to the length, narrowness, and tubular form of the 
part, is provided against. The expedient is admirable : 
and it is this. The intestinal canal, throughout its 
whole process, is knit to the edge of a broad fat mem- 
brane called the mesentery. It forms the margin of 
this mesentery, being stitched and fastened to it like 
the edging of a ruffle: being four times as long as the 
mesentery itself, it is what a sempstress would call, 
" puckered or gathered on" to it. This is the nature 
of the connexion of the gut with the mesentery \ and 


being thus joined to, or rather made a part of, the me- 
sentery, it is folded and wrapped up together with it. 
Now the mesentery, having a considerable dimension 
in breadth, being in its substance, withal, both thick 
and suety, is capable of a close and safe folding, in 
comparison of what the intestinal tube would admit of, 
if it had remained loose. The mesentery likewise not 
only keeps the intestinal canal in its proper place and 
position under all the turns and windings of its course, 
but sustains the numberless small vessels, the arteries, 
the veins, the lympheducts, and above all, the lacteals, 
which lead from or to almost every point of its coats 
and cavity. This membrane, which appears to be the 
great support and security of the alimentary apparatus, 
is itself strongly tied to the first three vertebras of the 
loins *. 

III. A third general property of animal forms is 
beauty, I do not mean relative beauty, or that of one 
individual above another of the same species, or of one 
species compared with another species; but I mean, 
generally, the provision which is made in the body of 
almost every animal, to adapt its appearance to the per- 
ception of the animals with which it converses. In our 
own species, for example, only consider what the parts 
and materials are, of which the fairest body is com- 
posed ; and no farther observation will be necessary to 
show how well these things are wrapped up, so as to 
form a mass which shall be capable of symmetry in its 
proportion, and of beauty in its aspect ; how the bones 
are covered, the bowels concealed, the roughnesses of 
the muscle smoothed and softened; and how over the 
whole is drawn an integument, which converts the dis- 
gusting materials of a dissecting-room into an object of 

* Keill's Anat. p. 45. 


attraction to the sight, or one upon which it rests, at 
least, with ease and satisfaction. Much of this effect 
is to be attributed to the intervention of the cellular or 
adipose membrane, which lies immediately under the 
skin; is a kind of lining to it; is moist, soft, slippery, 
and compressible ; every- where filling up the interstices 
of the muscles, and forming thereby their roundness 
and flowing line, as well as the evenness and polish of 
the whole surface. 

All which seems to be a strong indication of design, 
and of a design studiously directed to this purpose. 
And it being once allowed, that such a purpose existed 
with respect to any of the productions of nature, we 
may refer, with a considerable degree of probability, 
other particulars to the same intention; such as the 
teints of flowers, the plumage of birds, the furs of beasts, 
the bright scales of fishes, the painted wings of butter- 
flies and beetles, the rich colours and spotted lustre of 
many tribes of insects. 

There are parts also of animals ornamental, and the 
properties by which they are so, not subservient, that 
we know of, to any other purpose. The irides of most 
animals are very beautiful, without conducing at all, by 
their beauty, to the perfection of vision; and nature 
could in no part have employed her pencil to so much 
advantage, because no part presents itself so conspicu- 
ously to the observer, or communicates so great an effect 
to the whole aspect. 

In plants, especially in the flowers of plants, the 
principle of beauty holds a still more considerable place 
in their composition; is still more confessed than in 
animals. Why, for one instance out of a thousand, 
does the corolla of the tulip, when advanced to its size 
and maturity, change its colour? The purposes, so far 


as we can see, of vegetable nutrition, might have been 
carried on as well by its continuing green. Or, if this 
could not be, consistently with the progress of vegetable 
life, why break into such a variety of colours? This is 
no proper effect of age, or of declension in the ascent 
of the sap; for that, like the autumnal teints, would 
have produced one colour on one leaf, with marks of 
fading and withering. It seems a lame account to call 
it, as it has been called, a disease of the plant. Is it 
not more probable, that this property, which is inde- 
pendent, as it should seem, of the wants and utilities 
of the plant, was calculated for beauty, intended for 

A ground, I know, of objection has been taken 
against the whole topic of argument, namely, that there 
is no such thing as beauty at all ; in other words, that 
whatever is useful and familiar, comes of course to be 
thought beautiful; and that things appear to be so, 
only by their alliance with these qualities. Our idea 
of beauty is capable of being in so great a degree mo- 
dified by habit, by fashion, by the experience of advan- 
tage or pleasure, and by associations arising out of that 
experience, that a question has been made, whether it 
be not altogether generated by these causes, or would 
have any proper existence without them. It seems, 
however, a carrying of the conclusion too far, to deny 
the existence of the principle, viz. a native capacity of 
perceiving beauty, on account of an influence, or of 
varieties proceeding from that influence, to which it is 
subject, seeing that principles the most acknowledged 
are liable to be affected in the same manner. I should 
rather argue thus: The question respects objects of 
sight. Now every other sense hath its distinction of 
agreeable and disagreeable. Some tastes offend the 


palate, others gratify it. In brutes and insects, this 
distinction is stronger and more regular than in man. 
Every horse, ox, sheep, swine, when at liberty to choose, 
and when in a natural state, that is, when not vitiated 
by habits forced upon it, eats and rejects the same 
plants. Many insects which feed upon particular 
plants, will rather die than change their appropriate 
leaf. All this looks like a determination in the sense 
itself to particular tastes. In like manner, smells affect 
the nose with sensations pleasurable or disgusting. 
Some sounds, or compositions of sound, delight the 
ear: others torture it. Habit can do much in all these 
cases (and it is well for us that it can ; for it is this 
power which reconciles us to many necessities): but 
has the distinction, in the mean time, of agreeable and 
disagreeable, no foundation in the sense itself? What 
is true of the other senses, is most probably true of the 
eye (the analogy is irresistible), viz. that there belongs 
to it an original constitution, fitted to receive pleasure 
from some impressions, and pain from others. 

I do not however know, that the argument which 
alleges beauty as a final cause, rests upon this conces- 
sion. We possess a sense of beauty, however we come 
by it. It in fact exists. Things are not indifferent to 
this sense; all objects do not suit it; many, which we 
see, are agreeable to it ; many others disagreeable. It 
is certainly not the effect of habit upon the particular 
object, because the most agreeable objects are often the 
most rare; many which are very common, continue 
to be offensive. If they be made supportable by habit, 
it is all which habit can do ; they never become agree- 
able. If this sense, therefore, be acquired, it is a re- 
sult; the produce of numerous and complicated actions 
of external objects upon the senses, and of the mind 


upon its sensations. With this result, there must be a 
certain congruity to enable any particular object to 
please; and that congruity, we contend, is consulted 
in the aspect which is given to animal and vegetable 

IV. The skin and covering of animals is that upon 
which their appearance chiefly depends ; and it is that 
part which, perhaps, in all animals, is most decorated, 
and most free from impurities. But were beauty, or 
agreeableness of aspect, entirely out of the question, 
there is another purpose answered by this integument, 
and by the collocation of the parts of the body beneath 
it, which is of still greater importance: and that purpose 
is concealment. Were it possible to view through the 
skin the mechanism of our bodies, the sight would 
frighten us out of our wits. " Durst we make a single 
movement," asks a lively French writer, " or stir a step 
from the place we were in, if we saw our blood cir- 
culating, the tendons pulling, the lungs blowing, the 
humours nitrating, and all the incomprehensible as- 
semblage of fibres, tubes, pumps, valves, currents, pivots, 
which sustain an existence at once so frail, and so pre- 
sumptuous ?" 

V. Of animal bodies, considered as masses, there is 
another property, more curious than it is generally 
thought to be; which is the faculty of standing: and it 
is more remarkable in two-legged animals than in qua- 
drupeds, and, most of all, as being the tallest, and 
resting upon the smallest base, in man. There is 
more, I think, in the matter than we are aware of. 
The statue of a man, placed loosely upon a pedestal, 
would not be secure of standing half an hour. You 
are obliged to fix its feet to the block by bolts and 
solder; or the first shake, the first gust of wind, is sure 


to throw it down. Yet this statue shall express all the 
mechanical proportions of a living model. It is not 
therefore the mere figure, or merely placing the centre 
of gravity within the base, that is sufficient. Either 
the law of gravitation is suspended in favour of living 
substances, or something more is done for them, in 
order to enable them to uphold their posture. There 
is no reason whatever to doubt, but that their parts 
descend by gravitation in the same manner as those of 
dead matter. The gift therefore appears to me to 
consist in a faculty of perpetually shifting the centre of 
gravity, by a set of obscure, indeed, but of quick- 
balancing actions, so as to keep the line of direction, 
which is a line drawn from that centre to the ground, 
within its prescribed limits. Of these actions it may 
be observed, first, that they in part constitute what we 
call strength. The dead body drops down. The mere 
adjustment therefore of weight and pressure, which 
may be the same the moment after death as the moment 
before, does not support the column. In cases also of 
extreme weakness, the patient cannot stand upright. 
Secondly, that these actions are only in a small degree 
voluntary. A man is seldom conscious of his voluntary 
powers in keeping himself upon his legs. A child 
learning to walk is the greatest posture-master in the 
world: but art, if it may be so called, sinks into habit; 
and he is soon able to poise himself in a great variety 
of attitudes, without being sensible either of caution or 
effort. But still there must be an aptitude of parts, 
upon which habit can thus attach ; a previous capacity 
of motions which the animal is thus taught to exercise : 
and the facility with which this exercise is acquired, 
forms one object of our admiration. What parts are 
principally employed, or in what manner each con- 


tributes to its office, is, as hath already been confessed, 
difficult to explain. Perhaps the obscure motion of 
the bones of the feet may have their share in this 
effect. They are put in action by every slip or vacil- 
lation of the body, and seem to assist in restoring its 
balance. Certain it is, that this circumstance in the 
structure of the foot, viz. its being composed of many 
small bones, applied to and articulating with one an- 
other, by diversely shaped surfaces, instead of being 
made of one piece, like the last of a shoe, is very re- 
markable. I suppose also that it would be difficult to 
stand firmly upon stilts or wooden legs, though their 
base exactly imitated the figure and dimensions of the 
sole of the foot. The alternation of the joints, the 
knee-joint bending backward, the hip-joint forward: 
the flexibility, in every direction, of the spine, especially 
in the loins and neck, appear to be of great moment in 
preserving the equilibrium of the body. With respect 
to this last circumstance, it is observable, that the ver- 
tebrae are so confined by ligaments as to allow no more 
slipping upon their bases than what is just sufficient 
to break the shock which any violent motion may oc- 
casion to the body. A certain degree also of tension 
of the sinews appears to be essential to an erect posture; 
for it is by the loss of this, that the dead or paralytic 
body drops down. The whole is a wonderful result of 
combined powers, and of very complicated operations. 
Indeed, that standing is not so simple a business as we 
imagine it to be, is evident from the strange gesticu- 
lations of a drunken man, who has lost the government 
of the centre of gravity. 

We have said that this property is the most worthy 
of observation in the human body: but a bird, resting 
upon its perch, or hopping upon a spray, affords no 


mean specimen of the same faculty. A chicken runs 
off as soon as it is hatched from the egg ; yet a chicken, 
considered geometrically, and with relation to its centre 
of gravity, its line of direction, and its equilibrium, is 
a very irregular solid. Is this gift, therefore, or in- 
struction? May it not be said to be with great at- 
tention, that nature hath balanced the body upon its 

I observe also in the same bird a piece of useful 
mechanism of this kind. In the trussing of a fowl, 
upon bending the legs and thighs up towards the body, 
the cook finds that the claws close of their own accord. 
Now let it be remembered, that this is the position of 
the limbs, in which the bird rests upon its perch. And 
in this position it sleeps in safety; for the claws do 
their office in keeping hold of the support, not by any 
exertion of voluntary power, which sleep might suspend, 
but by the traction of the tendons in consequence of 
the attitude which the legs and thighs take by the bird 
sitting down, and to which the mere weight of the body 
gives the force that is necessary. 

VI. Regarding the human body as a mass; regarding 
the general conformations which obtain in it; regarding 
also particular parts in respect to those conformations ; 
we shall be led to observe what I call " interrupted 
analogies." The following are examples of what I mean 
by these terms; and I do not know how such critical 
deviations can, by any possible hypothesis, be accounted 
for without design. 

1. All the bones of the body are covered with a, pe- 
riosteum, except the teeth, where it ceases; and an 
enamel of ivory, which saws and files will hardly touch, 
comes into its place. No one can doubt of the use and 
propriety of this difference; of the "analogy" being 


thus interrupted;" of the rule, which belongs to the 
conformation of the bones, stopping where it does stop: 
for, had so exquisitely sensible a membrane as the pe- 
riosteum invested the teeth, as it invests every other 
bone of the body, their action, necessary exposure, and 
irritation, would have subjected the animal to continual 
pain. General as it is, it was not the sort of integument 
which suited the teeth ; what they stood in need of, was 
a strong, hard, insensible, defensive coat : and exactly 
such a covering is given to them, in the ivory enamel 
which adheres to their surface. 

2. The scarf-skin, which clothes all the rest of the 
body, gives way, at the extremities of the toes and 
fingers, to nails. A man has only to look at his hand, 
to observe with what nicety and precision that covering, 
which extends over every other part, is here superseded 
by a different substance, and a different texture. Now, 
if either the rule had been necessary, or the deviation 
from it accidental, this effect would not be seen. When 
I speak of the rule being necessary, I mean the forma- 
tion of the skin upon the surface being produced by 
a set of causes constituted without design, and acting, 
as all ignorant causes must act, by a general operation. 
Were this the case, no account could be given of the 
operation being suspended at the fingers' ends, or on 
the back part of the fingers, and not on the fore part. 
On the other hand ; if the deviation were accidental, 
an error, an anomalism ; were it any thing else than 
settled by intention ; we should meet with nails upon 
other parts of the body. They would be scattered over 
the surface, like warts or pimples. 

3. All the great cavities of the body are enclosed by 
membranes, except the skull. Wliy should not the 
brain be content with the same covering as that which 



serves for the other principal organs of the body? The 
heart, the lungs, the liver, the stomach, the bowels, 
have all soft integuments, and nothing else. The mus- 
cular coats are all soft and membranous. I can see a 
reason for this distinction in the final cause, but in no 
other. The importance of the brain to life (which ex* 
perience proves to be immediate), and the extreme ten- 
derness of its substance, make a solid case more necessary 
for it, than for any other part: and such a case the 
hardness of the skull supplies. When the smallest por- 
tion of this natural casket is lost, how carefully, yet how 
imperfectly, is it replaced by a plate of metal! If an 
anatomist should say, that this bony protection is not 
confined to the brain, but is extended along the course 
of the spine, I answer that he adds strength to the 
argument. If he remark, that the chest also is fortified 
by bones ; I reply, that I should have alleged this instance 
myself, if the ribs had not appeared subservient to the 
purpose of motion as well as of defence. What distin- 
guishes the skull from every other cavity is, that the 
bony covering completely surrounds its contents, and 
is calculated, not for motion, but solely for defence. 
Those hollows, likewise, and inequalities which we 
observe in the inside of the skull, and which exactly fit 
the folds of the brain, answer the important design of 
keeping the substance of the brain steady, and of guard- 
ing it against concussions. 



Whenever we find a general plan pursued, yet with 
such variations in it, as are, in each case, required by 


the particular exigency of the subject to which it is 
applied, we possess, in such a plan and such adaptation, 
the strongest evidence that can be afforded of intelligence 
and design; an evidence which JjiC'most completely 
excludes every other hypothesis, jjf the general plan ^\ 
proceeded from any fixed necessity in the nature of 
things, how could it accommodate itself to the various 
wants and uses which it had to serve under different 
circumstances, and on different occasions "f\Arkivrightfs 
mill was invented for the spinning of cotton. We see 
it employed for the spinning of wool, flax, and hemp, 
with such modifications of the original principle, such 
variety in the same plan, as the texture of those different 
materials rendered necessary. Of the machine's being 
put together with design, if it were possible to doubt, 
whilst we saw it only under one mode, and in one form; 
when we came to observe it in its different applications, 
with such changes of structure, such additions and sup- 
plements, as the special and particular use in each case 
demanded, we could not refuse any longer our assent 
to the proposition, " that intelligence, properly and 
strictly so called (including under that name, foresight, 
consideration, reference to utility), had been employed, 
as well in the primitive plan, as in the several changes 
and accommodations which it is made to undergo." 

Very much of this reasoning is applicable to what has 
been called Comparative Anatomy, In their general 
ceconomy, in the outlines of the plan, in the construction 
as well as offices of their principal parts, there exists 
between all large terrestrial animals a close resemblance. 
In all, life is sustained, and the body nourished, by 
nearly the same apparatus. The heart, the lungs, the 
stomach, the liver, the kidneys, are much alike in all. 
The same fluid (for no distinction of blood has been 



observed) circulates through their vessels, and nearly in 
the same order. (The same cause, therefore, whatever 
that cause was, has been concerned in the origin, has 
governed the production, of these different animal 
forms. ^ 

When we pass on to smaller animals, or to the in- 
habitants of a different element, \the resemblance be- 
comes more distant and more obscure; but still the plan 
accompanies us.J 

And, what we can never enough commend, and 
which it is our business at present to exemplify, the 
plan is attended, through all its varieties and deflections, 
by subserviences to special occasions and utilities. 

I. The covering of different animals (though whether 
I am correct in classing this under their anatomy, I do 
not know) is the first thing which presents itself to our 
observation ; and is, in truth, both for its variety and 
its suitableness to their several natures, as much to be 
admired as any part of their structure. We have 
bristles, hair, wool, furs, feathers, quills, prickles, scales ; 
yet in this diversity both of material and form, we cannot 
change one animal's coat for another, without evidently 
changing it for the worse: taking care however to 
remark, that these coverings are, in many cases, armour 
as well as clothing; intended for protection as well as 

The human animal is the only one which is naked, 
and the only one which can clothe itself. This is one 
of the properties which renders him an animal of all 
climates, and of all seasons. He can adapt the warmth 
or lightness of his covering to the temperature of his 
habitation. Had he been born with a fleece upon his 
back, although he might have been comforted by its 
warmth in high latitudes, it would have oppressed him 


by its weight and heat, as the species spread towards the 

What art, however, does for men, nature has, in 
many instances, done for those animals which are in- 
capable of art. Their clothing, of its own accord, 
changes with their necessities. This is particularly the 
case with that large tribe of quadrupeds, which are 
covered with furs. Every dealer in hare-skins and 
rabbit-skins knows how much the fur is thickened by 
the approach of winter. It seems to be a part of the 
same constitution and the same design, that wool, in 
hot countries, degenerates, as it is called, but in truth 
(most happily for the animal's ease) passes into hair; 
whilst, on the contrary, that hair, in the dogs of the 
polar regions, is turned into wool, or something very 
like it. To which may be referred, what naturalists 
have remarked, that bears, wolves, foxes, hares, which 
do not take the water, have the fur much thicker on 
the back than the belly; whereas in the beaver it is 
the thickest upon the belly ; as are the feathers in water- 
fowl. We know the final cause of all this ; and we know 
no other. 

The covering of birds cannot escape the most vulgar 
observation. Its lightness, its smoothness, its warmth ; 
— the disposition of the feathers all inclined backward, 
the down about their stem, the overlapping of their 
tips, their different configuration in different parts, not 
to mention the variety of their colours, constitute a 
vestment for the body, so beautiful, and so appropriate 
to the life which the animal is to lead, as that, I think, 
we should have had no conception of any thing equally 
perfect, if we had never seen it, or can now imagine 
any thing more so. Let us suppose (what is possible 
only in supposition) a person who had never seen a bird, 


to be presented with a plucked pheasant, and bid to set 
his wits to work, how to contrive for it a covering which 
shall unite the qualities of warmth, levity, and least re- 
sistance to the air, and the highest degree of each; 
giving it also as much of beauty and ornament as he 
could afford. ^ He is the person to behold the work of 
the Deity, in this part of his creation, with the senti- 
ments which are due to it. 

The commendation, which the general aspect of the 
feathered world seldom fails of exciting, will be in- 
creased by farther examination. It is one of those 
cases in which the philosopher has more to admire than 
the common observer. Every feather is a mechanical 
wonder. If we look at the quill, we find properties not 
easily brought together — strength and lightness. I 
know few things more remarkable than the strength 
and lightness of the very pen with which I am writing. 
If we cast our eye to the upper part of the stem, we see 
a material, made for the purpose, used in no other class 
of animals, and in no other part of birds; tough, light, 
pliant, elastic. The pith, also, which feeds the feathers, 
is, amongst animal substances, sui generis; neither bone, 
flesh, membrane, nor tendon*. 

But the artificial part of a feather is the beard, or, as 
it is sometimes, I believe, called, the vane. By the 
beards are meant, what are fastened on each side of the 
stem, and what constitute the breadth of the feather; 
what we usually strip off from one side or both, when 
we make a pen. The separate pieces or lamina?, of 
which the beard is composed, are called threads, some- 

* The quill part of a feather is composed of circular and longi- 
tudinal fibres. In making a pen, you must scrape off the coat of 
circular fibres, or the quill will split in a ragged, jagged manner, 
making what boys call cat's teeth. 


times filaments, or rays. Now the first thing which an 
attentive observer will remark is, how much stronger 
the beard of the feather shows itself to be, when pressed 
in a direction perpendicular to its plane, than when 
rubbed, either up or down, in the line of the stem ; and 
he will soon discover the structure which occasions this 
difference, viz. that the laminae whereof these beards are 
composed are flat, and placed with their flat sides to- 
wards each other; by which means, whilst they easily 
bend for the approaching of each other, as any one may 
perceive by drawing his finger ever so lightly upwards, 
they are much harder to bend out of their plane, which 
is the direction in which they have to encounter the 
impulse and pressure of the air, and in which their 
strength is wanted, and put to the trial. 

This is one particularity in the structure of a feather: 
a second is still more extraordinary. Whoever ex- 
amines a feather, cannot help taking notice, that the 
threads or laminae of which we have been speaking, in 
their natural state unitej\thsit their union is something 
more than the mere apposition of loose surfaces f] that 
they are not parted asunder without some degree of 
force; that nevertheless there is no glutinous cohesion 
between them; that, therefore, by some mechanical 
means or other, they catch or clasp among themselves, 
thereby giving to the beard or vane its closeness and 
compactness of texture. Nor is this all: when two 
laminae, which have been separated by accident or force, 
are brought together again, they immediately reclasp: 
the connexion, whatever it was, is perfectly recovered, 
and the beard of the feather becomes as smooth and 
firm as if nothing had happened to it. Draw your fin- 
ger down the feather, which is against the grain, and 
you break, probably, the junction of some of the con- 


tiguous threads ; draw your finger up the feather, and 
you restore all things to their former state. [This is no 
common contrivance ; and now for the mechanism by 
which it is effected. The threads or laminae above 
mentioned are in terlace d with one another; and the 
interlacing is performed by means of a vast number of 
fibres, or teeth, which the laminae shoot forth on each 
side, and which hook an^^apjlejt^ether^ A friend 
of mine counted fifty of these fibres in one twentieth of 
an inch. These fibres are crooked; but curved after a 
different manner: for those which proceed from the 
thread on the side towards the extremity of the feather 
are longer, more flexible, and bent downward ; whereas 
those which proceed from the side towards the begin- 
ning, or quill-end of the feather, are shorter, firmer, 
and turn upwards. The process then which takes place 
is as follows : when two laminae are pressed together, so 
that these long fibres are forced far enough over the 
short ones, their crooked parts fall into the cavity made 
by the crooked parts of the others; just as the latch that 
is fastened to a door, enters into the cavity of the catch 
fixed to the door-post, and there hooking itself, fastens 
the door; for it is properly in this manner, that one 
thread of a feather is fastened to the other. 

This admirable structure of the feather, which it is 
easy to see with the microscope, succeeds perfectly for 
the use to which nature has designed it ; which use was, 
not only that the laminae might be united, but that 
when one thread or lamina has been separated from an- 
other by some external violence, it might be reclasped 
with sufficient facility and expedition*. 

* The above account is taken from Memoirs for a Natural History 
of Animals, by the Royal Academy of Paris, published in 1701, p. 


In the ostrich) this apparatus of crotchets and fibres, 
of hooks and teeth, is wanting ; and we see the conse- 
quence of the want. The filaments hang loose and se- 
parate from one another, forming only a kind of down; 
which constitution of the feathers, however it may fit 
them for the flowing honours of a lady's head-dress, may 
be reckoned an imperfection in the bird, inasmuch as 
wings, composed of these feathers, although they may 
greatly assist it in running, do not serve for flight. 

But under the present division of our subject, our 
business with feathers is, as they are the covering of 
the bird. And herein a singular circumstance occurs. 
In the small order of birds which winter with us, from a 
snipe downwards, let the external colour of the feathers 
be what it will, their Creator has universally given them 
a bed of black down next their bodies. Black, we know, 
is the warmest colour ; and the purpose here is, to keep 
in the heat, arising from the heart and circulation of 
V the blood. It is farther likewise remarkable, that this 
is not found in larger birds ; for which there is also a 
reason : — small birds are much more exposed to the cold 
than large ones; forasmuch as they present, in propor- 
tion to their bulk, a much larger surface to the air. If 
a turkey were divided into a number of wrens (supposing 
the shape of the turkey and the wren to be similar), the 
surface of all the wrens would exceed the surface of the 
turkey,, in the proportion of the length, breadth (or, of 
any homologous line), of a turkey to that of a wren ; 
which would be, perhaps, a proportion often to one. It 
was necessary therefore that small birds should be more 
warmly clad than large ones : and this seems to be the 
expedient by which that exigency is provided for. 

II. In comparing different animals, I know no part 
of their structure which exhibits greater variety, or, in 


that variety, a nicer accommodation to their respective 
conveniency, than that which is seen in the different 
formations of their mouths. Whether the purpose be 
the reception of aliment merely, or the catching of prey, 
the picking up of seeds, the cropping of herbage, the 
extraction of juices, the suction of liquids, the breaking 
and grinding of food, the taste of that food, together 
with the respiration of air, and, in conjunction with it, 
the utterance of sound ; these various offices are assigned 
to this one part, and, in different species, provided for, 
as they are wanted, by its different constitution. In the 
human species, forasmuch as there are hands to convey 
the food to the mouth, the mouth is flat, and by reason 
of its flatness, fitted only for reception; whereas the pro- 
jecting jaws, the wide rictus, the pointed teeth of the 
dog and his affinities, enable them to apply their mouths 
to snatch and seize the objects of their pursuit. The 
full lips, the rough tongue, the corrugated cartilaginous 
palate, the broad cutting teeth of the ox, the deer, the 
horse, and the sheep, qualify this tribe for browsing' 
upon their pasture ; either gathering large mouthfuls at 
once, where the grass is long, which is the case with 
the ox in particular ; or biting close where it is short, 
which the horse and the sheep are able to do, in a de- 
gree that one could hardly expect. The retired under- 
jaw of a swine works in the ground, after the protruding 
snout, like a prong or plough-share, has made its way to 
the roots upon which it feeds. A conformation so 
happy was not the gift of chance. 

In birds, this organ assumes a new character; new 
both in substance and in form ; but in both, wonder- 
fully adapted to the wants and uses of a distinct mode 
of existence. We have no longer the fleshy lips, the 
teeth of enamelled bone ; but we have, in the place of 


these two parts, and to perform the office of both, a hard 
substance (of the same nature with that which composes 
the nails, claws, and hoofs of quadrupeds), cut out into 
proper shapes, and mechanically suited to the actions 
which are wanted. The sharp edge and tempered point 
of the sparrow's bill picks almost every kind of seed 
from its concealment in the plant; and not only so, but 
hulls the grain, breaks and shatters the coats of the seed, 
in order to get at the kernel. The hooked beak of the 
hawk-tribe separates the flesh from the bones of the ani- 
mals which it feeds upon, almost with the cleanness and 
precision of a dissector's knife. The butcher-bird trans- 
fixes its prey upon the spike of a thorn, whilst it picks 
its bones. In some birds of this class, we have the cross- 
bill, i. e. both the upper and lower bill hooked, and 
their tips crossing. The spoon-hill enables the goose to 
graze, to collect its food from the bottom of pools, or to 
seek it amidst the soft or liquid substances with which 
it is mixed. The long tapering bill of the snipe and 
woodcock penetrates still deeper into moist earth, which 
is the bed in which the food of that species is lodged. 
This is exactly the instrument which the animal wanted. 
It did not want strength in its bill, which was inconsist- 
ent with the slender form of the animal's neck, as well 
as unnecessary for the kind of aliment upon which it 
subsists ; but it wanted length to reach its object. 

But the species of bill which belongs to the birds 
that live by suction, deserves to be described in its re- 
lation to that office. They are what naturalists call 
serrated or dentated bills; the inside of them, towards 
the edge, being thickly set with parallel or concentric 
rows of short, strong, sharp-pointed prickles. These, 
though they should be called teeth, are not for the pur- 
pose of mastication, like the teeth of quadrupeds ; nor 


yet, as in fish, for the seizing and retaining of their 
prey ; but for a quite different use. They form a 
nitre. The duck by means of them discusses the mud; 
examining with great accuracy the puddle, the brake, 
every mixture which is likely to contain her food. The 
operation is thus carried on : — The liquid or semi-liquid 
substances, in which the animal has plunged her bill, 
she draws, by the action of her lungs, through the nar- 
row interstices which lie between these teeth ; catching, 
as the stream passes across her beak, whatever it may 
happen to bring along with it, that proves agreeable to 
her choice, and easily dismissing all ^the rest. Now, 
suppose the purpose to have been, out of a mass of con- 
fused and heterogeneous substances, to separate for the 
use of the animal, or rather to enable the animal to se- 
parate for its own, those few particles which suited its 
taste and digestion; what more artificial, or more com- 
modious, instrument of selection, could have been given 
to it, than this natural filtre? It has been observed 
also (what must enable the bird to choose and distin- 
guish with greater acuteness, as well, probably, as what 
greatly increases its luxury), that the bills of this species 
are furnished with large nerves, — that they are covered 
with a skin, — and that the nerves run down to the very 
extremity. In the curlew, woodcock, and snipe, there 
are three pairs of nerves, equal almost to the optic 
nerve in thickness, which pass first along the roof of 
the mouth, and then along the upper chap down to the 
point of the bill, long as the bill is. 

But to return to the train of our observations. — The 
similitude between the bills of birds and the mouths of 
quadrupeds is exactly such, as, for the sake of the argu- 
ment, might be wished for. It is near enough to show 
the continuation of the same plan : it is remote enough 


to exclude the supposition of the difference being pro- 
duced by action or use. A more prominent contour, 
or a wider gap, might be resolved into the effect of 
continued efforts, on the part of the species, to thrust 
out the mouth, or open it to the stretch. But by what 
course of action, or exercise, or endeavour, shall we get 
rid of the lips, the gums, the teeth ; and acquire, in the 
place of them, pincers of horn? By what habit shall we 
so completely change, not only the shape of the part, 
but the substance of which it is composed? The truth 
is, if we had seen no other than the mouths of quadru- 
peds, we should have thought no other could have been 
formed: little could we have supposed, that all the 
purposes of a mouth, furnished with lips, and armed 
with teeth, could be answered by an instrument which 
had none of these; could be supplied, and that with 
many additional advantages, by the hardness, and 
sharpness, and figure of the bills of birds. Every 
thing about the animal mouth is mechanical. The 
teeth of fish have their points turned backward, like 
the teeth of a wool or cotton card. The teeth of lob- 
sters work one against another, like the sides of a pair 
of shears. In many insects, the mouth is converted 
into a pump or sucker, fitted at the end sometimes with 
a wimble, sometimes with a forceps; by which double 
provision, viz. of the tube and the penetrating form of 
the point, the insect first bores through the integuments 
of its prey, and then extracts the juices. And, what 
is most extraordinary of all, one sort of mouth, as the 
occasion requires, shall be changed into another sort. 
The caterpillar could not live without teeth; in several 
species, the butterfly formed from it, could not use 
them. The old teeth therefore are cast off with the 
exuviae of the grub ; a new and totally different appa- 


ratus assumes their place in the fly. Amid these no- 
velties of form, we sometimes forget that it is, all the 
while, the animal's mouth; that, whether it be lips, or 
teeth, or bill, or beak, or shears, or pump, it is the same 
part diversified: and it is also remarkable, that, under 
all the varieties of configuration with which we are ac- 
quainted, and which are very great, the organs of taste 
and smelling are situated near each other. 

III. To the mouth adjoins the gullet: in this part 
also, comparative anatomy discovers a differ ence o f 
structure, adapted to the diffi^n* nece ssitie s of the ani- 

jnjl^jTnTSrutes, because the posture of their neck con- 
duces little to the passage of the aliment, the fibres of 
the gullet, which act in this business, run in two close 
spiral lines, crossing each other: in men, these fibres 
run only a little obliquely from the upper end of the 
oesophagus to the stomach, into which, by a gentle con- 
traction, they easily transmit the descending morsels ; 
that is to say, for the more laborious deglutition of ani- 
mals, which thrust their food up instead of down, and 
also through a longer passage, a proportionably more 
powerful apparatus of muscles is provided; more power- 
ful, not merely by the strength of the fibres, which 
might be attributed to the greater exercise of their 
force, but in their collocation, which is a determinate 
circumstance, and must have been original. 

IV. The gullet leads to the intestines: here, like- 
wise, as before, comparing quadrupeds with man, under 
a general similitude we meet with appropriate differ- 
ences. The valvules conniventes, or, as they are by some 
called, the semilunar valves, found in the human intes- 
tine, are wanting in that of brutes. These are wrinkles 
or plates of the innermost coat of the guts, the effect of 
which is to retard the progress of the food through the 


alimentary canal. It is easy to understand how much 
more necessary such a provision may be to the body of 
an animal of an erect posture, and in which, conse- 
quently, the weight of the food is added to the action 
of the intestine, than in that of a quadruped, in which 
the course of the food, from its entrance to its exit, is 
nearly horizontal: |nit it is impossible to assign any 
^ x cause, except the final cause , for this distinction actually 
^ taking place."! So far as depends upon the action of the 
part, this structure was more to be expected in a qua- 
druped than in a man. In truth, it must in both have 
been formed, not by action, but in direct opposition to 
action and to pressure ; but the opposition which would 
arise from pressure, is greater in the upright trunk than 
in any other. That theory therefore is pointedly con- 
tradicted by the example before us. The structure is 
found where its generation, according to the method by 
which the theorist would have it generated, is the most 
difficult; but (observe) it is found where its effect is 
most useful. 

The different length of the intestines in carnivorous 
and herbivorous animals, has been noticed on a former 
occasion. The shortest, I believe, is that of some birds 
of prey, in which the intestinal canal is little more than 
a straight passage from the mouth to the vent. The 
longest is in the deer-kind. The intestines of a Ca- 
nadian stag, four feet high, measured ninety-six feet*. 
The intestine of a sheep, unravelled, measured thirty 
times the length of the body. The intestine of a wild 
cat is only three times the length of the body. Uni- 
versally, where the substance upon which the animal 
feeds is of slow concoction, or yields its chyle with 
more difficulty, there the passage is circuitous and di- 

* Mem. Acad. Paris, 1701 ; p. 170. 


latory, that time and space may be allowed for the 
change and the absorption which are necessary. Where 
the food is soon dissolved, or already half assimilated, 
an unnecessary, or, perhaps, hurtful detention is avoided, 
by giving to it a shorter and a readier route. 

V. In comparing the bones of different animals, we 
are struck, in the bones of birds, with a propriety, 
which could only proceed from the wisdom of an in- 
telligent and designing Creator. In the bones of an 
animal which is to fly, the two qualities required are 
strength and lightness. Wherein, therefore, do the 
bones of birds (I speak of the cylindrical bones) differ, 
in these respects, from the bones of quadrupeds? In 
three properties: first, their cavities are much larger 
in proportion to the weight of the bone, than in those 
of quadrupeds; secondly, these cavities are empty; 
thirdly, the shell is of a firmer texture than is the sub- 
stance of other bones. It is easy to observe these par- 
ticulars, even in picking the wing or leg of a chicken. 
Now, the weight being the same, the diameter, it is 
evident, will be greater in a hollow bone than in a solid 
one, and with the diameter, as every mathematician 
can prove, is increased, cceteris paribus, the strength 
of the cylinder, or its resistance to breaking. In a 
word, a bone of the same weight would not have been 
so strong in any other form ; and to have made it hea- 
vier, would have incommoded the animal's flight. Yet 
this form could not be acquired by use, or the bone 
become hollow or tubular by exercise. What appe- 
tency could excavate a bone? 

VI. The lungs also of birds, as compared with the 
lungs of quadrupeds, contain in them a provision, di- 
stinguishingly calculated for this same purpose of levi- 
tation; namely, a communication (not found in other 
kinds of animals) between the air-vessels of the Juner? 


and the cavities of the body: so that by the intromis- 
sion of air from one to the other (at the will, as it 
should seem, of the animal), its body can be occasion- 
ally puffed out, and its tendency to descend in the air, 
or its specific gravity, made less. The bodies of birds 
are blown up from their lungs (which no other animal 
bodies are), and thus rendered buoyant. 

VII. All birds are oviparous. This likewise carries 
on the work of gestation with as little increase as pos- 
sible of the weight of the body. A gravid uterus would 
have been a troublesome burden to a bird in its flight. 
The advantage, in this respect, of an oviparous procre- 
ation, is, that, whilst the whole brood are hatched to- 
gether, the eggs are excluded singly, and at considera- 
ble intervals. Ten, fifteen, or twenty young birds may 
be produced in one cletch or covey, yet the parent bird 
have never been encumbered by the load of more than 
one full-grown egg at one time. 

VIII. A principal topic of comparison between ani- 
mals, is in their instruments of motion. These come 
before us under three divisions; feet, wings, and fins. I 
desire any man to say, which of the three is best fitted 
for its use; or whether the same consummate art be 
not conspicuous in them all. The constitution of the 
elements, in which the motion is to be performed, is 
very different. The animal action must necessarily 
follow that constitution. The Creator therefore, if we 
might so speak, had to prepare for different situations, 
for different difficulties ; yet the purpose is accomplished 
not less successfully in one case than in the other. And, 
as between wings and the corresponding limbs of qua- 
drupeds, it is accomplished without deserting the general 
idea. The idea is modified, not deserted. Strip a wing 
of its feathers, and it bears no obscure resemblance to 



the fore-leg of a quadruped. The articulations at the 
shoulder and the cubitus are much alike ; and, what is 
a closer circumstance, in both cases the upper part of 
the limb consists of a single bone, the lower part of two. 
But, fitted up with its furniture of feathers and quills, 
it becomes a wonderful instrument, more artificial than 
its first appearance indicates, though that be very striking: 
at least, the use, which the bird makes of its wings in 
flying, is more complicated, and more curious, than is 
generally known. One thing is certain, that if the 
flapping of the wings in flight were no more than the 
reciprocal motion of the same surface in opposite di- 
rections, either upwards and downwards, or estimated 
in any oblique line, the bird would lose as much by one 
motion, as she gained by another. The skylark could 
never ascend by such an action as this: for, though the 
stroke upon the air by the under-side of her wing would 
carry her up, the stroke from the upper-side, when she 
raised her wing again, would bring her down. In 
order, therefore, to account for the advantage which 
the bird derives from her wing, it is necessary to sup- 
pose, that the surface of the wing, measured upon the 
same plane, is contracted, whilst the wing is drawn up ; 
and let out to its full expansion, when it descends upon 
the air for the purpose of moving the body by the re- 
action of that element. Now the form and structure 
of the wing, its external convexity, the disposition, and 
particularly the overlapping, of its larger feathers, the 
action of the muscles, and joints of the pinions, are all 
adapted to this alternate adjustment of its shape and 
dimensions. Such a twist, for instance, or semirotatory 
motion, is given to the great feathers of the wing, that 
they strike the air with their flat side, but rise from the 
stroke slantwise. The turning of the oar in rowing, 


whilst the rower advances his hand for a new stroke, is 
a similar operation to that of the feather, and takes its 
name from the resemblance. I believe that this fa- 
culty is not found in the great feathers of the tail. 
This is the place also for observing, that the pinions 
are so set upon the body, as to bring down the wings 
not vertically, but in a direction obliquely tending to- 
wards the tail; which motion, by virtue of the common 
resolution of forces, does two things at the same time ; 
supports the body in the air, and carries it forward. 
The steerage of a bird in its flight is effected partly by 
the wings, but in a principal degree by the tail. And 
herein we meet with a circumstance not a little remark- 
able. Birds with long legs have short tails; and, in 
their flight, place their legs close to their bodies, at the 
same time stretching them out backwards, as far as they 
can. In this position, the legs extend beyond the 
rump, and become the rudder; supplying that steer- 
age which the tail could not. 

From the wings of birds, the transition is easy to the 
fins of fish. They are both, to their respective tribes, 
the instruments of their motion; but, in the work 
which they have to do, there is a considerable differ- 
ence, founded in this circumstance. Fish, unlike birds, 
have very nearly the same specific gravity with the ele- 
ment in which they move. In the case of fish, there- 
fore, there is little or no weight to bear up; what is 
wanted, is only an impulse sufficient to carry the body 
through a resisting medium, or to maintain the posture, 
or to support or restore the balance of the body, which 
is always the most unsteady where there is no weight 
to sink it. For these offices, the fins are as large as 
necessary, though much smaller than wings, their ac- 
tion mechanical, their position, and the muscles by 

m % 


which they are moved, in the highest degree convenient. 
The following short account of some experiments upon 
fish, made for the purpose of ascertaining the use of 
their fins, will be the best confirmation of what we as- 
sert. In most fish, beside the great fin the tail, we 
find two pairs of fins upon the sides, two single fins 
upon the back, and one upon the belly, or rather be- 
tween the belly and the tail. The balancing use of 
these organs is proved in this manner. Of the large- 
headed fish, if you cut off the pectoral fins, i, e. the 
pair which lies close behind the gills, the head falls 
prone to the bottom : if the right pectoral fin only be 
cut off, the fish leans to that side ; if the ventral fin on 
the same side be cut away, then it loses its equilibrium 
entirely ; if the dorsal and ventral fins be cut off, the 
fish reels to the right and left. When the fish dies, 
that is, when the fins cease to play, the belly turns up- 
wards. The use of the same parts for motion is seen 
in the following observation upon them when put in 
action. The pectoral, and more particularly the ven- 
tral fins, serve to raise and depress the fish ; when the 
fish desires to have a retrograde motion, a stroke for- 
ward with the pectoral fin effectually produces it; if 
the fish desire to turn either way, a single blow with 
the tail the opposite way, sends it round at once: if 
the tail strike both ways, the motion produced by the 
double lash is progressive, and enables the fish to dart 
forwards with an astonishing velocity *. The result is, 
not only, in some cases, the most rapid, but, in all 
cases, the most gentle, pliant, easy, animal motion, with 
which we are acquainted. However, when the tail is 
cut off, the fish loses all motion, and gives itself up to 
where the water impels it. The rest of the fins, there- 
* Goldsmith, Hist, of An. Nat. ?ol. vi. p. 154. 


fore, so far as respects motion, seem to be merely sub- 
sidiary to this. In their mechanical use, the anal fin 
may be reckoned the keel ; the ventral fins, out-riggers ; 
the pectoral muscles, the oars; and if there be any 
similitude between these parts of a boat and a fish, 
observe, that it is not the resemblance of imitation, but 
the likeness which arises from applying similar mecha- 
nical means to the same purpose. 

We have seen that the tail in the fish is the great in- 
strument of motion. Now, in cetaceous or warm-blooded 
fish, which are obliged to rise every two or three minutes 
to the surface to take breath, the tail, unlike what it is 
in other fish, is horizontal; its stroke, consequently, 
perpendicular to the horizon, which is the right di- 
rection for sending the fish to the top, or carrying it 
down to the bottom. 

Regarding animals in their instruments of motion, 
we have only followed the comparison through the first 
great division of animals into beasts, birds, and fish. If 
it were our intention to pursue the consideration farther, 
I should take in that generic distinction amongst birds, 
the iveb-foot of water-fowl. It is an instance which may 
be pointed out to a child. The utility of the web to 
water- fowl, the inutility to land-fowl, are so obvious, 
that it seems impossible to notice the difference without 
acknowledging the design. I am at a loss to know, how 
those, who deny the agency of an intelligent Creator, 
dispose of this example. There is nothing in the action 
of swimming, as carried on by a bird upon the surface 
of the water, that should generate a membrane between 
the toes. As to that membrane, it is an exercise of con- 
stant resistance. The only supposition I can think of 
is, that all birds have been originally water-fowl, and 
web-footed; that sparrows, hawks, linnets, &c. which 


frequent the land, have, in process of time, and in the 
course of many generations, had this part worn away 
by treading upon hard ground. To such evasive as- 
sumptions must atheism always have recourse! and, 
after all, it confesses that the structure of the feet of 
birds, in their original form, was critically adapted to 
their original destination ! The web-feet of amphibious 
quadrupeds, seals, otters, &c. fall under the same ob- 

IX. The^tf senses are common to most large ani- 
mals; nor have we much difference to remark in their 
constitution, or much, however, which is referable to 

The superior sagacity of animals which hunt their 
prey, and which, consequently, depend for their liveli- 
hood upon their nose, is well known in its use ; but not 
at all known in the organisation which produces it. 

The external ears of beasts of prey, of lions, tigers, 
wolves, have their trumpet-part, or concavity, standing 
forwards, to seize the sounds which are before them, 
viz. the sounds of the animals which they pursue or 
watch. The ears of animals of flight are turned back- 
ward, to give notice of the approach of their enemy from 
behind, whence he may steal upon them unseen. This 
is a critical distinction, and is mechanical; but it may 
be suggested, and, I think, not without probability, that 
it is the effect of continual habit. 

The eyes of animals which follow their prey by night, 
as cats, owls, &c. possess a faculty not given to those of 
other species, namely, of closing the pupil entirely. [The 
final cause of which seems to be this : — It was neces- 
^s. sary for such animals to be able to descry objects with 
Very small degrees of light."? This capacity depended 
upon the superior sensibility of the retina; that is, 


upon its being affected by the most feeble impulses. 
But that tenderness of structure, which rendered the 
membrane thus exquisitely sensible, rendered it also 
liable to be offended by the access of stronger degrees 
of light. The contractile range therefore of the pupil 
is increased in these animals, so as to enable them to 
close the aperture entirely, which includes the power of 
diminishing it in every degree; whereby at all times 
such portions, ana' only such portions, of light are ad- 
mitted, as may be received without injury to the sense. 
There appears to be also in the figure, and in some 
properties of the pupil of the eye, an appropriate re- 
lation to the wants of different animals. In horses, 
oxen, goats, sheep, the pupil of the eye is elliptical; the 
transverse axis being horizontal; by which structure, 
although the eye be placed on the side of the head, the 
anterior elongation of the pupil catches the forward 
rays, or those which come from objects immediately in 
front of the animal's face. 



I believe that all the instances which I shall collect 
under this title might, consistently enough with tech- 
nical language, have been placed under the head of 
.Comparative* Anatomy. But there appears to me an 
impropriety in the use which that term hath obtained; 
it being, in some sort, absurd to call that a case of 
comparative anatomy, in which there is nothing to 
" compare;" in which a conformation is found in one 
animal, which hath nothing properly answering to it in 


another. Of this kind are the examples which I have 
to propose in the present chapter; and the reader will 
see that, though some of them be the strongest, perhaps, 
he will meet with under any division of our subject, 
they must necessarily be of an unconnected and mis- 
cellaneous nature. To dispose them, however, into 
some sort of order, we will notice, first, particularities 
of structure which belong to quadrupeds, birds, and 
fish, as such, or to many of the kinds included in these 
classes of animals; and then, such particularities as are 
confined to one or two species. 
\— /rv I. |Along each side of the neck of large quadrupeds, 
runs a stiff, robust cartilage, which butchers call the 
pax-wax.^jNo person can carve the upper end of a crop 
of beef without driving his knife against it. It is a 
ough, strong, tendinous substance, braced from the 
ead to the middle of the back : its office is to assist in 
upporting the weight of the head. It is a mechanical 

v^ provision, of which this is the undisputed use; and it is 
* sufficient, and not more than sufficient, for the purpose 
which it has to execute. The head of an ox or a horse 
is a heavy weight, acting at the end of a long lever (con- 
sequently with a great purchase), and in a direction 
nearly perpendicular to the joints of the supporting 
neck. From such a force, so advantageously applied, 
the bones of the neck would be in constant danger of 
dislocation, if they were not fortified by this strong 
tape. LNo such organ is found in the human subject^ 
because, from the erect position of the head (the pres~ 
sure of it acting nearly in the direction of the spine), 

, the junction of the vertebrae appears to be sufficiently 
secure without it. LThis cautionary expedient, therefore, 
is limited to quadrupeds: the care of the Creator is 
seen where it is wanted.^? 



I I. The oil with which birds p rune their feathers, 
and the organ which supplies it, is a specific provision 
for the winged creation. On each side of the rump of 
birds is observed a small nipple, yielding upon pressure 
a butter-like substance, which the bird extracts by pinch- 
ing the pap with its bill. With this oil, or ointment, 
thus procured, the bird dresses its coat; and repeats the 
action as often as its own sensations teach it that it is in 
any part wanted, or as the excretion may be sufficient 
for the expense. The gland, the pap, the nature and 
quality of the excreted substance, the manner of obtain- 
ing it from its lodgement in the body, the application 
of it when obtained, form, collectively, an evidence of 
intention which it is not easy to withstand. Nothing 
similar to it is found in unfeathered animals. What 
blind conatus of nature should produce it in birds ; 
should not produce it in beasts? 

III. The air -bladder also of aff ords a plain and 
direct instance, not only of contrivance, but strictly of 
that species of contrivance which we denominate me- 
chanical. It is a philosophical apparatus in the body of 
an animal. The principle of the contrivance is clear: 
the application of the principle is also clear. The use 
of the organ to sustain, and, at will, also to elevate, the 
body of the fish in the water, is proved by observing, 
what has been tried, that, when the bladder is burst, 
the fish grovels at the bottom ; and also, that flounders, 
soles, skates, which are without the air-bladder, seldom 
rise in the water, and that with effort. The manner in 

, which the purpose is attained, and the suitableness of 
the means to the end, are not difficult to be appre- 
hended. The rising and sinking of a fish in water, so 
far as it is independent of the stroke of the fins and tail, 
can only be regulated by the specific gravity of the body. 


When the bladder, contained in the body of the fish, is 
contracted, which the fish probably possesses a muscular 
power of doing, the bulk of the fish is contracted along 
with it ; whereby, since the absolute weight remains the 
same, the specific gravity, which is the sinking force, is 
increased, and the fish descends : on the contrary, when, 
in consequence of the relaxation of the muscles, the 
elasticity of the enclosed and now compressed air re- 
stores the dimensions of the bladder, the tendency 
downwards becomes proportionably less than it was be- 
fore, or is turned into a contrary tendency. These are 
known properties of bodies immersed in a fluid. The 
enamelled figures, or little glass bubbles, in a jar of 
water, are made to rise and fall by the same artifice. A 
diving-machine might be made to ascend and descend, 
upon the like principle; namely, by introducing into 
the inside of it an air-vessel, which, by its contraction, 
would diminish, and by its distention enlarge, the bulk 
of the machine itself, and thus render it specifically 
heavier, or specifically lighter, than the water which 
surrounds it. Suppose this to be done, and the artist 
to solicit a patent for his invention : the inspectors of 
the model, whatever they might think of the use or value 
of the contrivance, could by no possibility entertain a 
question in their minds, whether it were a contrivance or 
not. No reason has ever been assigned, — no reason can 
be assigned, why the conclusion is not as certain in the 
fish, as it is in the machine; why the argument is not 
as firm in one case as the other. 

It would be very worthy of inquiry, if it were pos- 
sible to discover, by what method an animal which lives 
constantly in water, is able to supply a repository of air. 
The expedient, whatever it be, forms part, and perhaps 
the most curious part, of the provision. [Nothing similar 


71 ' ^ 


to the air-bladder is found in land-animals ; and a life in 
the water has no natural tendency to produce a bag 
of air.""| [Nothing can be farther from an acquired or- 
ganlsanon than this isf) 

These examples mark the attention of the Creator to 
the three great kingdoms of his animal creation, and to 
their constitution as such. — The example which stands 
next in point of generality, belonging to a large tribe of 
animals, or rather to various species of that tribe, is the 
^jj$ poisonous tooth of serpents. 

k £#L) ll The Jang qfavi^erj^ a clear and curious example 
*r of mechanical contrivance^) It is a perforated tooth, 

►*^\V loose at the root: in its quiet state, lying down flat 
*Z Js^P 011 the jaw, but furnished with a muscle, which, with 
jP* a jerk, and by the pluck, as it were, of a string, suddenly 
y& ' erects it. Under the tooth, close to its root, and com- 
municating with the perforation, lies a small bag con- 
taining the venom. When the fang is raised, the closing 
of the jaw presses its root against the bag underneath; 
and the force of this compression sends out the fluid 
with a considerable impetus through the tube in the 
middle of the tooth. What more unequivocal or ef- 
fectual apparatus could be devised for the double pur- 
pose of at once inflicting the wound and injecting the 
poison? Yet, though lodged in the mouth, it is so con- 
stituted, as, in its inoffensive and quiescent state, not 
to interfere with the animal's ordinary office of receiving 
its food. It has been observed also, that none of the 
harmless serpents, the black snake, the blind worm, &c. 
have these fangs, but teeth of an equal size ; not move- 
able, as this is, but fixed into the jaw. 

II. In being the property of several different species, 
the preceding example is resembled by that which I 
shall next mention, which is the bag of the opossum. 



his is a mechanical contrivance, most properly so 
called. ^The simplicity of the expedient renders the 
contrivance more obvious than many others, and by no 
means less certain. A false skin under the belly of the 
animal, forms a pouch, into which the young litter are 
received at their birth; where they have an easy and 
constant access to the teats; in which they are trans- 
ported by the dam from place to place ; where they are 
at liberty to run in and out ; and where they find a 
refuge from surprise and danger. It is their cradle, 
their asylum, and the machine for their conveyance. 
Can the use of this structure be doubted of? Nor is it 
a mere doubling of the skin ; but it is a new organ, 
furnished with bones and muscles of its own. Two 
bones are placed before the os pubis, and joined to that 
bone as their base. These support, and give a fixture 
to, the muscles which serve to open the bag. To these 
muscles there are antagonists, which serve in the same 
manner to shut it ; and this office they perform so ex- 
actly, that, in the living animal, the opening can 
scarcely be discerned, except when the sides are forcibly 
y N N v drawn asunder*, lis there any action in this part of 
. * the animal, any process arising from that action, by 
r^ which these members could be formed? any account to 
he given of the formation, except design? I 

©III. As a particularity, yet appertaining to more 
species than one; and also as strictly mechanical; we 
may notice a circumstance in the structure of thec&wc^ 
ofcertain birds. The middle claw of the heron and 
cormorant is toothed and notched like a saw. These 
birds are great fishers, and these notches assist them in 
holding their slippery prey. The use is evident ; but 
the structure such, as cannot at all be accounted for by 
* Goldsmith, Nat. Hist. vol. iv. p. 244. 


the effort of the animal, or the exercise of the part. 
Some other fishing birds have these notches in their 
bills; and for the same purpose. The gannet, or So- 
land goose, has the side of its bill irregularly jagged, 
that it may hold its prey the faster. Nor can the struc- 
ture in this, more than in the former case, arise from 
the manner of employing the part. The smooth sur- 
faces, and soft flesh of fish, were less likely to notch the 
bills of birds, than the hard bodies upon which many 
other species feed. 

We now come to particularities strictly so called, as 
being limited to a single species of animal. Of these, 
I shall take one from a quadruped, and one from a 

I. The stomach of the camel is well known to retain 
arge quantities of water, and to retain it unchanged 
for a considerable length of time. This property qua- 
lifies it for living in the desert. Let us see, therefore, 
what is the internal organisation, upon which a faculty 
so rare, and so beneficial, depends. A number of 
distinct sacs or bags (in a dromedary thirty of these 
have been counted) are observed to lie between the 
membranes of the second stomach, and to open into the 
stomach near the top by small square apertures. Through 
these orifices, after the stomach is full, the annexed bags 
are filled from it: and the water so deposited is, in the 
first place, not liable to pass into the intestines ; in the 
second place, is kept separate from the solid, aliment ; 
and, in the third place, is out of the reach of the diges- 
tive action of the stomach, or of mixture with the gas- 
tric juice. It appears probable, or rather certain, that 
the animal, by the conformation of its muscles, possesses 
the power of squeezing back this water from the adjacent 


bags into the stomach, whenever thirst excites it to put 
this power in action. 

II. The ton£Me~q^Jke iwodjjecker is one of those 
singularities, which nature presents us with, when a 
singular purpose is to be answered. It is a particular 
instrument for a particular use ; and what, except design, 
ever produces such? The woodpecker lives chiefly upon 
insects, lodged in the bodies of decayed or decaying 
trees. For the purpose of boring into the wood, it is 
furnished with a bill straight, hard, angular, and sharp. 
When, by means of this piercer, it has reached the 
cells of the insects, then comes the office of its tongue: 
which tongue is, first, of such a length that the bird can 
dart it out three or four inches from the bill, — in this 
respect differing greatly from every other species of 
bird ; in the second place, it is tipped with a stiff, sharp, 
bony thorn ; and, in the third place (which appears to 
me the most remarkable property of all), this tip is den- 
tated on both sides like the beard of an arrow or the 
barb of a hook. The description of the part declares 
its uses. The bird, having exposed the retreats of the 
insects by the assistance of its bill, with a motion in- 
conceivably quick, launches out at them this long 
tongue ; transfixes them upon the barbed needle at the 
end of it; and thus draws its prey within its mouth. If 
this be not mechanism, what is? Should it be said, 
that, by continual endeavours to shoot out the tongue 
to the stretch, the woodpecker species may by degrees 
have lengthened the organ itself, beyond that of other 
birds, what account can be given of its form, of its tip? 
how, in particular, did it get its barb, its dentation? 
These barbs, in my opinion, wherever they occur, are 
decisive proofs of mechanical contrivance. 


III. I shall add one more example, for the sake of 
its novelty. It is always an agreeable discovery, when, 
having remarked in an animal an extraordinary struc- 
ture, we come at length to find out an unexpected use 
for it. The following narrative furnishes an instance of 
this kind. The babyrouessa, or Indian hog, a species of 
wilo^boar^ found in the East Indies, has t wo bent teeth, 
more than half a yard long, growing upwards, and 
(which is the singularity) from the upper jaw. These 
instruments are not wanted for offence; that service 
being provided for by two tusks issuing from the upper 
jaw, and resembling those of the common boar: nor 
does the animal use them for defence. They might 
seem therefore to be both a superfluity and an encum- 
brance. But observe the event: — the animal sleeps 
standing; and, in order to support its head, hooks its 
upper tusks upon the branches of trees. 



I can hardly imagine to myself a more distinguishing 
mark, and, consequently, a more/certain proof of design, 
than preparation, i. e. the proviaTng of things before- 
hand, which are not to be used until a considerable time 
afterwards: for this implies a contemplation of the future, 
which belongs only to intelligence^ 

Of these prospective contrivances, the bodies of ani- 
mals furnish various examples. 

I. The human teeth afford an instance, not only of 
prospective contnvance T but of the completion of the 
contrivance being designedly suspended. They are 


formed within the gums, and there they stop ; the fact 
being, that their farther advance to maturity would not 
Only be useless to the new-born animal, but extremely 
in its way ; as it is evident that the act of sucking, by 
which it is for some time to be nourished, will be per- 
formed with more ease both to the nurse and to the 
infant, whilst the inside of the mouth, and edges of the 
gums, are smooth and soft, than if set with hard pointed 
bones. By the time they are wanted, the teeth are 
ready. They have been lodged within the gums for 
some months past, but detained, as it were, in their 
sockets, so long as their farther protrusion would inter- 
fere with the office to which the mouth is destined. 
Nature, namely, that intelligence which was employed 
in creation, looked beyond the first year of the infant's 
life ; yet, whilst she was providing for functions which 
were after that term to become necessary, was careful 
not to incommode those which preceded them. What 
renders it more probable that this is the effect of design, 
is, that the teeth are imperfect, whilst all other parts of 
the mouth are perfect. The lips are perfect, the tongue 
is perfect; the cheeks, the jaws, the palate, the pha- 
rynx, the larynx, are all perfect: the teeth alone are 
not so. This is the fact with respect to the human 
mouth: the fact also is, that the parts above enumerated 
are called into use from the beginning; whereas the 
teeth would be only so many obstacles and annoyances, 
if they were there. When a contrary order is necessary, 
a contrary order prevails. In the worm of the beetle, 
as hatched from the egg, the teeth are the first things 
which arrive at perfection. The insect begins to gnaw 
as soon as it escapes from the shell, though its other 
parts be only gradually advancing to their maturity. 

What has been observed of the teeth, is true of the 
horns of animals; and for the same reason. The horn 


of a calf or a lamb does not bud, or at least does not 
sprout to any considerable length, until the animal be 
capable of browsing upon its pasture ; because such a 
substance upon the forehead of the young animal would 
very much incommode the teat of the dam in the office 
of giving suck. 

But in the case of the teeth — of the human teeth at 
least, the prospective contrivance looks still farther. A 
succession of crops is provided, and provided from the 
beginning ; a second tier being originally formed beneath 
the first, which do not come into use till several years 
afterwards. And this double or suppletory provision 
meets a difficulty in the mechanism of the mouth, which 
would have appeared almost insurmountable. The ex- 
pansion of the jaw (the consequence of the proportionable 
growth of the animal, and of its skull), necessarily 
separates the teeth of the first set, however compactly 
disposed, to a distance from one another, which would 
be very inconvenient. In due time, therefore, i. e, 
when the jaw has attained a great part of its dimensions, 
a new set of teeth springs up (loosening and pushing out 
the old ones before them), more exactly fitted to the 
space which they are to occupy, and rising also in such 
close ranks, as to allow for any extension of line which 
the subsequent enlargement of the head may occasion. 

II. It is not very easy to conceive a more evidently 
prnsppctiva c.nnt :riv ance r than that which, in all viviparous 
animals, is found in th e milk of the female pa rent. At 
the moment the young animal enters the world, there 
is its maintenance ready for it. The particulars to be 
remarked in this oeconomy, are neither few nor slight. 
We have, first, the nutritious quality of the fluid, 
unlike, in this respect, every other excretion of the 
body; and in which nature hitherto remains unimitated, 



neither cookery nor chymistry having been able to make 
milk out of grass : we have, secondly, the organ for its 
reception and retention : we have, thirdly, the excretory 
duct, annexed to that organ: and we have, lastly, the 
determination of the milk to the breast, at the particular 
juncture when it is about to be wanted. We have all 
these properties in the subject before us : and they are 
all indications of design. The last circumstance is the 
strongest of any. If I had been to guess beforehand, 
I should have conjectured, that at the time when there 
was an extraordinary demand for nourishment in one 
part of the system there would be the least likelihood 
of a redundancy to supply another part. The advanced 
pregnancy of the female has no intelligible tendency to 
fill the breasts with milk. The lacteal system is a con- 
stant wonder: and it adds to other causes of our ad- 
miration, that the number of the teats or paps in each 
species is found to bear a proportion to the number of 
the young. In the sow, the bitch, the rabbit, the cat, 
the rat, which have numerous litters, the paps are nu- 
merous, and are disposed along the whole length of the 
belly ; in the cow and mare, they are few. The most 
simple account of this, is to refer it to a designing 

But in the argument before us, we are entitled to 
consider not only animal bodies when framed, but the 
circumstances under which they are framed : and in this 
view of the subject, the constitution of many of their 
parts is most strictly prospective. 

III. The eye is of no use, at the time when it is 
formed. It is an optical instrument made in a dun- 
geon ; constructed for the refraction of light to a focus, 


and perfect for its purpose, before a ray of light has 
had access to it; geometrically adapted to the properties 
and action of an element, with which it has no com- 
munication. It is about indeed to enter into that com- 
munication : and this is precisely the thing which evi- 
dences intention. It is providing for the future in the 
closest sense which can be given to these terms; for it 
is providing for a future change ; not for the then sub- 
sisting condition of the animal; not for any gradual 
progress or advance in that same condition ; but for a 
new state, the consequence of a great and sudden alter- 
ation, which the animal is to undergo at its birth. Is 
it to be believed that the eye was formed, or, which is 
the same thing, that the series of causes was fixed by 
which the eye is formed, without a view to this change; 
without a prospect of that condition, in which its fabric, 
of no use at present, is about to be of the greatest ; 
without a consideration of the qualities of that element, 
hitherto entirely excluded, but with which it was here- 
after to hold so intimate a relation? A young man 
makes a pair of spectacles for himself against he grows 
old; for which spectacles he has no want or use what- 
ever at the time he makes them. Could this be done 
without knowing and considering the defect of vision 
to which advanced age is subject? Would not the pre- 
cise suitableness of the instrument to its purpose, of the 
remedy to the defect, of the convex lens to the flattened 
eye, establish the certainty of the conclusion, that the 
case, afterwards to arise, had been considered before- 
hand, speculated upon, provided for ? all which are ex- 
clusively the acts of a reasoning mind. (jThe eye formed 
in one state, for use only in another state, and in a 
different state, affords a proof no less clear of destina- 
tion to a future purpose; and a proof proportionably 

N 2 


stronger, as the machinery is more complicated, and 
the adaptation more exact. \ 

IV. VWhat has been said of the eye, holds equally 
true of the lungs. I Composed of air-vessels, where 
there is no air; elaborately constructed for the alternate 
admission and expulsion of an elastic fluid, where no 
such fluid exists; this great organ, with the whole 
apparatus belonging to it, lies collapsed in the foetal 
thorax; yet in order, and in readiness for action, the 
first moment that the occasion requires its service. This 
is having a machine locked up in store for future use ; 
which incontestably proves, that the case was expected 
to occur, in which this use might be experienced ; but 
expectation is the proper act of intelligence. Con- 
sidering the state in which an animal exists before its 
birth, I should look for nothing less in its body than a 
system of lungs. It is like finding a pair of bellows in 
the bottom of the sea; of no sort of use in the situation 
in which they are found; formed for an action which 
was impossible to be exerted; holding no relation or 
fitness to the element which surrounds them, but both 
to another element in another place. 

As part and parcel of the same plan, ought to be 
mentioned, in speaking of the lungs, the provisionary 
contrivances of the Jbramen ovale and ductus arteriosus. 
In the foetus, pipes are laid for the passage of the blood 
through the lungs; but, until the lungs be inflated by 
the inspiration of air, that passage is impervious, or in 
a great degree obstructed. What then is to be done? 
What would an artist, what would a master, do upon 
the occasion? He would endeavour, most probably, 
to provide a temporary passage, which might carry on 
the communication required, until the other was open. 
Now this is the thing which is actually done in the 


heart: — Instead of the circuitous route through the 
lungs, which the blood afterwards takes, before it get 
from one auricle of the heart to the other ; a portion 
of the blood passes immediately from the right auricle 
to the left, through a hole, placed in the partition, 
which separates these cavities. This hole, anatomists 
call the foramen ovale. There is likewise another cross 
cut, answering the same purpose, by what is called the 
ductus arteriosus, lying between the pulmonary artery 
and the aorta. But both expedients are so strictly 
temporary, that, after birth, the one passage is closed, 
and the tube which forms the other shrivelled up into 
a ligament. If this be not contrivance, what is? 

But, forasmuch as the action of the air upon the 
blood in the lungs appears to be necessary to the perfect 
concoction of that fluid, i. e. to the life and health of 
the animal (otherwise the shortest route might still be 
the best), how comes it to pass that the foetus lives, and 
grows, and thrives without it? The answer is, that 
the blood of the foetus is the mother's ; that it has un- 
dergone that action in her habit; that one pair of lungs 
serves for both. When the animals are separated, a 
new necessity arises; and to meet this necessity as 
soon as it occurs, an organisation is prepared. It is 
ready for its purpose: it only waits for the atmo- 
sphere: it begins to play, the moment the air is ad- 
mitted to it. 





\When several different parts contribute to one effect, 
or, which is the same thing, when an effect is produced 
by the joint action of different instruments; the fitness 
of such parts or instruments to one another, for the 
purpose of producing, by their united action, the effect, 

*is what I call relation ;\ and wherever this is observed 
in the works of nature or of man, it appears to me to 
carry along with it decisive evidence of understanding, 
intention, art. Un examining, for instance, the several 
parts of a watch, the spring, the barrel, the chain, the 
fusee, the balance, the wheels of various sizes, forms, 
and positions, what is it which would take an observer's 
attention, as most plainly evincing a construction, 
directed by thought, deliberation, and contrivance? It 
is the suitableness of these parts to one another; first, 
in the succession and order in which they act ; and, 
secondly, with a view to the effect finally produced. "\ 
Thus, referring the spring to the wheels, our observer 
sees in it, that which originates and upholds their 
motion ; in the chain, that which transmits the motion 
to the fusee; in the fusee, that which communicates it 
to the wheels ; in the conical figure of the fusee, if he 
refer to the spring, he sees that which corrects the in- 
equality of its force. Referring the wheels to one an- 
other, he notices, first, their teeth, which would have 
been without use or meaning, if there had been only 
one wheel, or if the wheels had had no connexion be- 
tween themselves, or common bearing upon some joint 
effect ; secondly, the correspondency of their position, 


so that the teeth of one wheel catch into the teeth of 
another ; thirdly, the proportion observed in the number 
of teeth in each wheel, which determines the rate of 
going. Referring the balance to the rest of the works, 
he saw, when he came to understand its action, that 
which rendered their motions equable. Lastly, in 
looking upon the index and face of the watch, he saw 
the use and conclusion of the mechanism, viz. marking 
the succession of minutes and hours; but all depending 
upon the motions within, all upon the system of inter- 
mediate actions between the spring and the pointer. 
What thus struck his attention in the several parts of 
the watch, he might probably designate by one general 
name of " relation;" and observing with respect to all 
cases whatever, in which the origin and formation of 
a thing could be ascertained by evidence, that these 
relations were found in things produced by art and 
design, and in no other things, he would rightly deem 
of them as characteristic of such productions. — To 
apply the reasoning here described to the works of 

Yrhe animal oeconomy is full, is made up, of these 

I. There are, first, what, in one form or other, 
belong to all animals, the parts and powers which suc- 
cessively act upon their food. Compare this action 
with the process of a manufactory. In men and qua- 
drupeds, the aliment is, first, broken and bruised by 
mechanical instruments of mastication, viz. sharp spikes 
or hard knobs, pressing against or rubbing upon one 
another: thus ground and comminuted, it is carried 
by a pipe into the stomach, where it waits to undergo 
a great chymical action, which we call digestion : when 
digested, it is delivered through an orifice, which opens 


and shuts, as there is occasion, into the first intestine ; 
there, after being mixed with certain proper ingredients, 
poured through a hole in the side of the vessel, it is 
farther dissolved : in this state, the milk, chyle, or part 
which is wanted, and which is suited for animal nou- 
rishment, is strained off by the mouths of very small 
tubes, opening into the cavity of the intestines ; thus 
freed from its grosser parts, the percolated fluid is car- 
ried by a long, winding, but traceable course, into the 
main stream of the old circulation ; which conveys it, 
in its progress, to every part of the body. Now I say 
again, compare this with the process of a manufactory; 
with the making of cider, for example ; with the bruising 
of the apples in the mill, the squeezing of them when 
so bruised in the press, the fermentation in the vat, the 
bestowing of the liquor thus fermented in the hogs- 
heads, the drawing off into bottles, the pouring out for 
use into the glass. Let any one show me any differ- 
ence between these two cases, as to the point of con- 
trivance. That which is at present under our con- 
sideration, the " relation" of the parts successively 
employed, is not more clear in the last case, than in 
the first. The aptness of the jaws and teeth to prepare 
the food for the stomach, is, at least, as manifest, as 
that of the cider-mill to crush the apples for the press. 
The concoction of the food in the stomach is as neces- 
sary for its future use, as the fermentation of the stum 
in the vat is to the perfection of the liquor. The 
disposal of the aliment afterwards; the action and 
change which it undergoes ; the route which it is made 
to take, in order that, and until that, it arrive at its 
destination, is more complex indeed and intricate, but, 
in the midst of complication and intricacy, as evident 
and certain, as is the apparatus of cocks, pipes, tunnels, 


for transferring the cider from one vessel to another ; of 
barrels and bottles, for preserving it till fit for use ; or 
of cups and glasses, for bringing it, when wanted, to 
the lip of the consumer. The character of the ma- 
chinery is in both cases this; that one part answers to 
another part, and every part to the final result. 

This parallel between the alimentary operation and 
some of the processes of art, might be carried farther 
into detail. Spallanzani has remarked* a circum- 
stantial resemblance between the stomachs of galli- 
naceous fowls and the structure of corn-mills. Whilst 
the two sides of the gizzard perform the office of the 
mill-stones, the craw or crop supplies the place of the 

When our fowls are abundantly supplied with meat, 
they soon fill their craw: but it does not immediately 
pass thence into the gizzard; it always enters in very 
small quantities, in proportion to the progress of tritu- 
ration ; in like manner as, in a mill, a receiver is fixed 
above the two large stones which serve for grinding the 
corn; which receiver, although the corn be put into it 
by bushels, allows the grain to dribble only in small 
quantities, into the central hole in the upper mill-stone. 

But we have not done with the alimentary history. 
There subsists a general relation between the external 
organs of an animal by which it procures its food, and 
the internal powers by which it digests it. Birds of 
prey, by their talons and beaks, are qualified to seize 
and devour many species, both of other birds, and of 
quadrupeds. The constitution of the stomach agrees 
exactly with the form of the members. The gastric 
juice of a bird of prey, of an owl, a falcon, or a kite, 
acts upon the animal fibre alone; it will not act upon 

* Disc. I. sec. liv. 


seeds or grasses at all. On the other hand, the con- 
formation of the mouth of the sheep or the ox is suited 
for browsing upon herbage. Nothing about these ani- 
mals is fitted for the pursuit of living prey. Accord- 
ingly it has been found by experiments, tried not many 
years ago, with perforated balls, that the gastric juice 
of ruminating animals, such as the sheep and the ox, 
speedily dissolves vegetables, but makes no impression 
upon animal bodies. This accordancy is still more par- 
ticular. The gastric juice, even of granivorous birds, 
will not act upon the grain, whilst whole and entire. 
In performing the experiment of digesting with the 
gastric juice in vessels, the grain must be crushed and 
bruised, before it be submitted to the menstruum, that 
is to say, must undergo by art without the body, the 
preparatory action which the gizzard exerts upon it 
within the body ; or no digestion will take place. So 
strict, in this case, is the relation between the offices 
assigned to the digestive organ, between the mecha- 
nical operation and the chymical process. 

II. The relation of the kidneys to the bladder, and 
of the ureters to both, i. e. of the secreting organ to 
the vessel receiving the secreted liquor, and the pipe 
laid from one to the other for the purpose of conveying 
it from one to the other, is as manifest as it is amongst 
the different vessels employed in a distillery, or in the 
communications between them. The animal structure, 
in this case, being simple, and the parts easily separated, 
it forms an instance of correlation which may be pre- 
sented by dissection to every eye, or which indeed, 
without dissection, is capable of being apprehended by 
every understanding. This correlation of instruments 
to one another fixes intention somewhere. 

Especially when every other solution is negatived by 


the conformation. If the bladder had been merely an 
expansion of the ureter, produced by retention of the 
fluid, there ought to have been a bladder for each 
ureter. One receptacle, fed by two pipes, issuing from 
different sides of the body, yet from both conveying 
the same fluid, is not to be accounted for by any such 
supposition as this. 

IlirHelation of parts to one another accompanies 
us throughout the whole animal ceconomyT\ Can any 
relation be more simple, yet more convincing, than 
this, that the eyes are so placed as to look in the direc- 
tion in which the legs move and the hands work? It 
might have happened very differently, if it had been 
left to chance. There were, at least, three quarters of 
the compass out of four to have erred in. Any consi- 
derable alteration in the position of the eye, or the 
figure of the joints, would have disturbed the line, and 
destroyed the alliance between the sense and the limbs. 

IV. But relation perhaps is never so striking as when 
it subsists, not between different parts of the same thing, 
but between different things. The relation between a 
lock and a key is more obvious, than it is between dif- 
ferent parts of the lock. A bow was designed for an 
arrow, and an arrow for a bow : and the design is more 
evident for their being separate implements. 

Nor do the works of the Deity want this clearest 
species of relation. The sexes are manifestly made for 
each other. They form the grand relation of animated 
nature ; universal, organic, mechanical •> subsisting like 
the clearest relations of art, in different individuals; 
unequivocal, inexplicable without design. 

So much so, that, were every other proof of contriv- 
ance in nature dubious or obscure, this alone would 
be sufficient. The example is complete. Nothing is 


wanting to the argument. I see no way whatever of 
getting over it. 

V. The teats of animals which give suck, bear a re- 
lation to the mouth of the suckling progeny ; particu* 
larly to the lips and tongue. Here also, as before, is 
a correspondency of parts, which parts subsist in differ- 
ent individuals. 

These are general relations, or the relations of parts 
which are found, either in all animals, or in large classes 
and descriptions of animals. Particular relations, or 
the relations which subsist between the particular con- 
figuration of one or more parts of certain species of ani- 
mals, and the particular configuration of one or more 
other parts of the same animal (which is the sort of re- 
lation that is, perhaps, most striking), are such as the 
following : 

I. In the swan; the web-foot, the spoon-bill, the 
long neck, the thick down, the graminivorous stomach, 
bear all a relation to one another, inasmuch as they all 
concur in one design, that of supplying the occasions 
of an aquatic fowl, floating upon the surface of shallow 
pools of water, and seeking its food at the bottom. 
Begin with any one of these particularities of structure, 
and observe how the rest follow it. The web-foot qua- 
lifies the bird for swimming: the spoon-bill enables it 
to graze. But how is an animal, floating upon the sur- 
face of pools of water, to graze at the bottom, except 
by the mediation of a long neck? A long neck accord- 
ingly is given to it. Again, a warm-blooded animal, 
which was to pass its life upon water, required a defence 
against the coldness of that element. Such a defence 
is furnished to the swan, in the muff in which its body 
is wrapped. But all this outward apparatus would have 
been in vain, if the intestinal system had not been suited 


to the digestion of vegetable substances. I say suited 
to the digestion of vegetable substances ; for it is well 
known, that there are two intestinal systems found in 
birds: one with a membranous stomach and a gastric 
juice, capable of dissolving animal substances alone; 
the other with a crop and gizzard, calculated for the 
moistening, bruising, and afterwards digesting, of ve- 
getable aliment. 

Or set off with any other distinctive part in the body 
of the swan ; for instance, with the long neck. The 
long neck, without the web-foot, would have been an 
encumbrance to the bird; yet there is no necessary 
connexion between a long neck and a web-foot. In 
fact, they do not usually go together. How happens 
it, therefore, that they meet, only when a particular 
design demands the aid of both ? 

II. This mutual relation, arising from a subserviency 
to a common purpose, is very observable also in the 
parts of a mole. The strong short legs of that animal, 
the palmated feet armed with sharp nails, the pig-like 
nose, the teeth, the velvet coat, the small external ear, 
the sagacious smell, the sunk, protected eye, all con- 
duce to the utilities or to the safety of its underground 
life. It is a special purpose, specially consulted through- 
out. The form of the feet fixes the character of the 
animal. They are so many shovels; they determine its 
action to that of rooting in the ground; and every 
thing about its body agrees with this destination. The 
cylindrical figure of the mole, as well as the compact- 
ness of its form, arising from the terseness of its limbs, 
proportionably lessens its labour; because, according to 
its bulk, it thereby requires the least possible quantity 
of earth to be removed for its progress. It has nearly 


the same structure of the face and jaws as a swine, and 
the same office for them. The nose is sharp, slender, 
tendinous, strong; with a pair of nerves, going down 
to the end of it. The plush covering, which, by the 
smoothness, closeness, and polish of the short piles that 
compose it, rejects the adhesion of almost every species 
of earth, defends the animal from cold and wet, and 
from the impediment which it would experience by the 
mould sticking to its body. From soils of all kinds the 
little pioneer comes forth bright and clean. Inhabiting 
dirt, it is, of all animals, the neatest. 

But what I have always most admired in the mole is 
its eyes. This animal occasionally visiting the surface, 
and wanting, for its safety and direction, to be informed 
when it does so, or when it approaches it, a perception 
of light was necessary. I do not know that the clear- 
ness of sight depends at all upon the size of the organ. 
What is gained by the largeness or prominence of the 
globe of the eye, is width in the field of vision. Such 
a capacity would be of no use to an animal which was 
to seek its food in the dark. The mole did not want 
to look about it ; nor would a large advanced eye have 
been easily defended from the annoyance to which the 
life of the animal must constantly expose it. How in- 
deed was the mole, working its way under ground, to 
guard its eyes at all? In order to meet this difficulty, 
the eyes are made scarcely larger than the head of a 
corking-pin; and these minute globules are sunk so 
deeply in the skull, and lie so sheltered within the vel- 
vet of its covering, as that any contraction of what may 
be called the eye-brows, not only closes up the aper- 
tures which lead to the eyes, but presents a cushion, as 
it were, to any sharp or protruding substance which 


might push against them. This aperture, even in its 
ordinary state, is like a pin-hole in a piece of velvet, 
scarcely pervious to loose particles of earth. 

Observe then, in this structure, that which we call 
relation. There is no natural connexion between a 
small sunk eye and a shovel palmated foot. Palmated 
feet might have been joined with goggle eyes ; or small 
eyes might have been joined with feet of any other 
form. What was it therefore which brought them to- 
gether in the mole? That which brought together the 
barrel, the chain, and the fusee in a watch ; design ; and 
design, in both cases, inferred, from the relation which 
the parts bear to one another in the prosecution of a 
common purpose. As hath already been observed, 
there are different ways of stating the relation, accord- 
ing as we sat out from a different part. In the instance 
before us, we may either consider the shape of the feet, 
as*qualifying the animal for that mode of life and inha- 
bitation^to which the structure of its eyes confines it ; 
or we may consider the structure of the eye, as the only 
one which would have suited with the action to which 
the feet are adapted. The relation is manifest, which- 
ever of the parts related we place first in the order of 
our consideration. In a word, the feet of the mole are 
made for digging; the neck, nose, eyes, ears, and skin, 
are peculiarly adapted to an underground life ; and this 
is what I call relation. 



Compensation is a species of relation. It is rela- 
tion when the defects of one part, or of one organ, are 


supplied by the structure of another part, or of another 
organ. Thus, 

I. The short unbending neck of the elephant, is com- 
pensated by the length and flexibility of his proboscis. 
He could not have reached the ground without it ; or, 
if it be supposed that he might have fed upon the fruit, 
leaves, or branches of trees, how was he to drink? Should 
it be asked, Why is the elephant's neck so short? it 
may be answered, that the weight of a head so heavy 
could not have been supported at the end of a longer 
lever. To a form, therefore, in some respects neces- 
sary, but in some respects also inadequate to the occa- 
sion of the animal, a supplement is added, which exactly 
makes up the deficiency under which he laboured. 

If it be suggested that this proboscis may have been 
produced, in a long course of generations, by the con- 
stant endeavour of the elephant to thrust out its nose 
(which is the general hypothesis by which it has lately 
been attempted to account for the forms of animated 
nature), I would ask, How was the animal to subsist in 
the mean time ; during the process ; until this prolonga- 
tion of snout were completed? What was to become of 
the individual, whilst the species was perfecting? 

Our business at present is, simply to point out the 
relation which this organ bears to the peculiar figure of 
the animal to which it belongs. And herein all things 
correspond. The necessity of the elephant's proboscis 
arises from the shortness of his neck ; the shortness of 
the neck is rendered necessary by the weight of the 
head. Were we to enter into an examination of the 
structure and anatomy of the proboscis itself, we should 
see in it one of the most curious of all examples of ani- 
mal mechanism. The disposition of the ringlets and 
fibres, for the purpose, first, of forming a long carti- 


laginous pipe ; secondly, of contracting and lengthening 
that pipe; thirdly, of turning it in every direction at 
the will of the animal ; with the superaddition at the 
end, of a fleshy production, of about the length and 
thickness of a finger, and performing the office of a 
finger, so as to pick up a straw from the ground ; these 
properties of the same organ, taken together, exhibit a 
specimen, not only of design (which is attested by the 
advantage), but of consummate art, and, as I may say, 
of elaborate preparation, in accomplishing that design. 

II. The hook in the wing of a bat is strictly a me- 
chanical, and, also, a compensating contrivance. At 
the angle of its wing there is a bent claw, exactly in 
the form of a hook, by which the bat attaches itself to 
the sides of rocks, caves, and buildings, laying hold of 
crevices, joinings, chinks, and roughnesses. It hooks 
itself by this claw; remains suspended by this hold; 
takes its flight from this position: which operations 
compensate for the decrepitude of its legs and feet. 
Without her hook, the bat would be the most helpless 
of all animals. She can neither run upon her feet, nor 
raise herself from the ground. These inabilities are 
made up to her by the contrivance in her wing : and in 
placing a claw on that part, the Creator has deviated 
from the analogy observed in winged animals. — A sin- 
gular defect required a singular substitute. 

III. The crane-kind are to live and seek their food 
amongst the waters; yet, having no web-foot, are in- 
capable of swimming. To make up for this deficiency, 
they are furnished with long legs for wading, or long 
bills for groping; or usually with both. This is com- 
pensation. But I think the true reflection upon the 
present instance is, how every part of nature is tenanted 
by appropriate inhabitants. Not only is the surface of 

vol. iv. o 


deep waters peopled by numerous tribes of birds that 
swim, but marshes and shallow pools are furnished with 
hardly less numerous tribes of birds that wade. 

IV. The common parrot has, in the structure of its 
beak, both an inconveniency, and a compensation for it. 
When I speak of an inconveniency, I have a view to a 
dilemma which frequently occurs in the works of na- 
ture, viz. that the peculiarity of structure by which an 
organ is made to answer one purpose, necessarily unfits 
it for some other purpose. This is the case before us. 
The upper bill of the parrot is so much hooked, and so 
much overlaps the lower, that if, as in other birds, the 
lower chap alone had motion, the bird could scarcely 
gape wide enough to receive its food : yet this hook and 
overlapping of the bill could not be spared, for it forms 
the very instrument by which the bird climbs ; to say 
nothing of the use which it makes of it in breaking nuts 
and the hard substances upon which it feeds. How, 
therefore, has nature provided for the opening of this 
occluded mouth? By making the upper chap moveable, 
as well as the lower. In most birds, the upper chap is 
connected, and makes but one piece, with the skull; 
but in the parrot, the upper chap is joined to the bone 
of the head by a strong membrane placed on each side 
of it, which lifts and depresses it at pleasure *. 

V. The spider's web is a compensating contrivance. 
The spider lives upon flies, without wings to pursue 
them ; a case, one would have thought, of great diffi- 
culty, yet provided for, and provided for by a resource 
which no stratagem, no effort of the animal, could have 
produced, had not both its external and internal struc- 
ture been specifically adapted to the operation. 

* Goldsmith's Natural History, vol. v. p. 274. 


VI. In many species of insects, the eye is fixed ; and 
consequently without the power of turning the pupil to 
the object. This great defect is, however, perfectly 
compensated ; and by a mechanism which we should 
not suspect. The eye is a multiplying-glass, with a 
lens looking in every direction and catching every ob- 
ject. By which means, although the orb of the eye be 
stationary, the field of vision is as ample as that of other 
animals, and is commanded on every side. When this 
lattice work was first observed, the multiplicity and 
minuteness of the surfaces must have added to the sur- 
prise of the discovery. Adams tells us, that fourteen 
hundred of these reticulations have been counted in 
the two eyes of a drone-bee. 

In other cases the compensation is effected by the 
number and position of the eyes themselves. The 
spider has eight eyes, mounted upon different parts of 
the head; two in front, two in the top of the head, two 
on each side. These eyes are without motion ; but, by 
their situation, suited to comprehend every view which 
the wants or safety of the animal rendered it necessary 
for it to take. 

VII. The Memoirs for the Natural History of Ani- 
mals, published by the French Academy, A. D. 1687, 
furnish us with some curious particulars in the eye of 
a chameleon. Instead of two eyelids, it is covered by 
an eyelid with a hole in it. This singular structure 
appears to be compensatory, and to answer to some 
other singularities in the shape of the animal. The 
neck of the chameleon is inflexible. To make up for 
this, the eye is so prominent, as that more than half of 
the ball stands out of the head ; by means of which ex- 
traordinary projection, the pupil of the eye can be car- 
ried by the muscles in every direction, and is capable 

o 2 


of being pointed towards every object. But then, so 
unusual an exposure of the globe of the eye requires, 
for its lubricity and defence, a more than ordinary pro- 
tection of eyelid, as well as a more than ordinary supply 
of moisture; yet the motion of an eyelid, formed ac- 
cording to the common construction, would be impeded, 
as it should seem, by the convexity of the organ. The 
aperture in the lid meets this difficulty. It enables the 
animal to keep the principal part of the surface of the 
eye under cover, and to preserve it in a due state of 
humidity without shutting out the light; or without 
performing every moment a nictitation, which, it is 
probable, would be more laborious to this animal than 
to others. 

VIII. In another animal, and in another part of the 
animal ceconomy, the same Memoirs describe a most 
remarkable substitution. The reader will remember 
what we have already observed concerning the intes- 
tinal canal ; that its length, so many times exceeding 
that of the body, promotes the extraction of the chyle 
from the aliment, by giving room for the lacteal vessels 
to act upon it through a greater space. This long in- 
testine, wherever it occurs, is, in other animals, disposed 
in the abdomen from side to side in returning folds. 
But, in the animal now under our notice, the matter is 
managed otherwise. The same intention is mechani- 
cally effectuated; but by a mechanism of a different 
kind. The animal of which I speak, is an amphibious 
quadruped, which our authors call the alopecias, or sea- 
fox. The intestine is straight from one end to the 
other; but in this straight, and consequently short in- 
testine, is a winding, corkscrew, spiral passage, through 
which the food, not without several circumvolutions, 
and in fact by a long route, is conducted to its exit. 


Here the shortness of the gut is compensated by the 
obliquity of the perforation, 

IX. But the works of the Deity are known by ex- 
pedients. Where we should look for absolute destitu- 
tion ; where we can reckon up nothing but wants ; some 
contrivance always comes in, to supply the privation. 
A snail, without wings, feet, or thread, climbs up the 
stalks of plants, by the sole aid of a viscid humour 
discharged from her skin. She adheres to the stems, 
leaves, and fruits of plants, by means of a sticking- 
plaster. A muscle, which might seem, by its helpless- 
ness, to lie at the mercy of every wave that went over 
it, has the singular power of spinning strong, tendinous 
threads, by which she moors her shell to rocks and 
timbers. A cockle, on the contrary, by means of its 
stiff tongue, works for itself a shelter in the sand. The 
provisions of nature extend to cases the most desperate. 
A lobster has in its constitution a difficulty so great, 
that one could hardly conjecture beforehand how nature 
would dispose of it. In most animals, the skin grows 
with their growth. If, instead of a soft skin, there be 
a shell, still it admits of a gradual enlargement. If the 
shell, as in the tortoise, consist of several pieces, the 
accession of substance is made at the sutures. Bivalve 
shells grow bigger by receiving an accretion at their 
edge \ it is the same with spiral shells at their mouth. 
The simplicity of their form admits of this. But the 
lobster's shell being applied to the limbs of the body, 
as well as to the body itself, allows not of either of the 
modes of growth which are observed to take place in 
other shells. Its hardness resists expansion; and its 
complexity renders it incapable of increasing its size by 
addition of substance to its edge. How then was the 
growth of the lobster to be provided for? Was room to 


be made for it in the old shell, or was it to be suc- 
cessively fitted with new ones? If a change of shell be- 
came necessary, how was the lobster to extricate him- 
self from his present confinement? how was he to uncase 
his buckler, or draw his legs out of his boots? The 
process, which fishermen have observed to take place, is 
as follows : At certain seasons, the shell of the lobster 
grows soft; the animal swells its body; the seams open, 
and the claws burst at the joints. When the shell has 
thus become loose upon the body, the animal makes a 
second effort, and by a tremulous, spasmodic motion, 
casts it off. In this state, the liberated but defenceless 
fish retires into holes in the rock. The released body 
now suddenly pushes its growth. In about eight-and- 
forty hours, a fresh concretion of humour upon the 
surface, i. e. a new shell is formed, adapted in every 
part to the increased dimensions of the animal. This, 
wonderful mutation is repeated every year. 

If there be imputed defects without compensation, I 
should suspect that they were defects only in appear- 
ance. Thus, the body of the sloth has often been re- 
proached for the slowness of its motions, which has 
been attributed to an imperfection in the formation of 
its limbs. But it ought to be observed, that it is this 
slowness which alone suspends the voracity of the ani- 
mal. He fasts during his migration from one tree to 
another: and this fast may be necessary for the relief of 
his overcharged vessels, as well as to allow time for the 
concoction of the mass of coarse and hard food which 
he has taken into his stomach. The tardiness of his 
pace seems to have reference to the capacity of his 
organs, and to his propensities with respect to food; 
i. e. is calculated to counteract the effects of repletion. 

Or there may be cases, in which a defect is artificial, 


and compensated by the very cause which produces it. 
Thus the sheep, in the domesticated state in which we 
see it, is destitute of the ordinary means of defence or 
escape; is incapable either of resistance or flight. But 
this is not so with the wild animal. The natural 
sheep is swift and active : and, if it lose these qualities 
when it comes under the subjection of man, the loss 
is compensated by his protection. Perhaps there is 
no species of quadruped whatever, which suffers so 
little as this does from the depredation of animals of 

For the sake of making our meaning better under- 
stood, we have considered this business of compensation 
under certain particularities of constitution, in which it 
appears to be most conspicuous. This view of the sub- 
ject necessarily limits the instances to single species of 
animals. But there are compensations, perhaps not less 
certain, which extend over large classes, and to large 
portions of living nature. 

I. In quadrupeds, the deficiency of teeth is usually 
compensated by the faculty of rumination. The sheep, 
deer, and ox tribe, are without fore-teeth in the upper 
jaw. These ruminate. The horse and ass are fur- 
nished with teeth in the upper jaw, and do not rumi- 
nate. In the former class, the grass and hay descend 
into the stomach, nearly in the state in which they are 
cropped from the pasture, or gathered from the bundle. 
In the stomach, they are softened by the gastric juice, 
which in these animals is unusually copious. Thus 
softened and rendered tender, they are returned a 
second time to the action of the mouth, where the 
grinding teeth complete at their leisure the trituration 
which is necessary, but which was before left imperfect, 
I say, the trituration which is necessary ; for it appears 


from experiments, that the gastric fluid of sheep, for 
example, has no effect in digesting plants, unless they 
have been previously masticated ; that it only produces 
a slight maceration, nearly as common water would do in 
a like degree of heat ; but that when once vegetables are 
reduced to pieces by mastication, the fluid then exerts 
upon them its specific operation. Its first effect is to 
soften them, and to destroy their natural consistency; 
it then goes on to dissolve them ; not sparing even the 
toughest parts, such as the nerves of the leaves*. 

I think it very probable, that the gratification also of 
the animal is renewed and prolonged by this faculty. 
Sheep, deer, and oxen, appear to be in a state of enjoy- 
ment whilst they are chewing the cud. It is then, 
perhaps, that they best relish their food. 

II. In birds, the compensation is still more striking. 
They have no teeth at all. What have they then to 
make up for this severe want? I speak of granivorous 
and herbivorous birds ; such as common fowls, turkeys, 
ducks, geese, pigeons, &c. ; for it is concerning these 
alone that the question need be asked. All these are 
furnished with a peculiar and most powerful muscle, 
called the gizzard; the inner coat of which is fitted up 
with rough plaits, which, by a strong friction against 
one another, break and grind the hard aliment as effec- 
tually, and by the same mechanical action, as a coffee- 
mill would do. It has been proved by the most correct 
experiments, that the gastric juice of these birds will 
not operate upon the entire grain; not even when soft- 
ened by, water or macerated in the crop. Therefore 
without a grinding machine within its body, without 
the trituration of the gizzard, a chicken would have 
starved upon a heap of corn. Yet why should a bill and 
* Spall. Dis. iii. sect. cxl. 


a gizzard go together? Why should a gizzard never 
be found where there are teeth? 

Nor does the gizzard belong to birds as such. A 
gizzard is not found in birds of prey. Their food 
requires not to be ground down in a mill. The com- 
pensatory contrivance goes no farther than the necessity. 
In both classes of birds, however, the digestive organ 
within the body bears a strict and mechanical relation 
to the external instruments for procuring food. The 
soft membranous stomach accompanies a hooked notched 
beak: short, muscular legs; strong, sharp, crooked 
talons: the cartilaginous stomach attends that con- 
formation of bill and toes, which restrains the bird to 
the picking of seeds, or the cropping of plants. 

III. But to proceed with our compensations. — A 
very numerous and comprehensive tribe of terrestrial 
animals are entirely without feet ; yet locomotive ; and 
in a very considerable degree swift in their motion. 
How is the want of feet compensated? It is done by 
the disposition of the muscles and fibres of the trunk. 
In consequence of the just collocation, and by means 
of the joint action of longitudinal and annular fibres, 
that is to say, of strings and rings, the body and train 
of reptiles are capable of being reciprocally shortened 
and lengthened, drawn up and stretched out. The 
result of this action is a progressive, and, in some 
cases, a rapid movement of the whole body, in any 
direction to which the will of the animal determines it. 
The meanest creature is a collection of wonders. The 
play of the rings in an earth-worm, as it crawls ; the 
undulatory motion propagated along the body; the 
beards or prickles with which the annuli are armed, 
and which the animal can either shut up close to its 
body, or let out to lay hold of the roughness of the 


surface upon which it creeps; and the power arising 
from all these, of changing its place and position, afford, 
when compared w r ith the provisions for motion in other 
animals, proofs of new and appropriate mechanism. 
Suppose that we had never seen an animal move upon 
the ground without feet, and that the problem was; 
Muscular action, i. e. reciprocal contraction and relaxa- 
tion being given, to describe how such an animal might 
be constructed, capable of voluntarily changing place. 
Something, perhaps, like the organisation of reptiles, 
might have been hit upon by the ingenuity of an 
artist: or might have been exhibited in an automaton, 
by the combination of springs, spiral wires, and ringlets : 
but to the solution of the problem would not be denied, 
surely, the praise of invention and of successful thought: 
least of all could it ever be questioned, whether intel- 
ligence had been employed about it, or not. 




We have already considered relation, and under 
different views ; but it was the relation of parts to parts, 
of the parts of an animal to other parts of the same 
animal, or of another individual of the same species. 

But the bodies of animals hold, in their constitution 
and properties, a close and important relation to natures 
altogether external to their own: to inanimate sub- 
stances, and to the specific qualities of these ; e. g. they, 
hold a strict relation to the elements bij which they 
are surrounded. 


I. Can it be doubted, whether the wings of birds bear 
a relation to air, and the fins offish to water? They 
are instruments of motion, severally suited to the pro- 
perties of the medium in which the motion is to be per- 
formed : which properties are different. Was not this 
difference contemplated, when the instruments were 
differently constituted ? 

II. The structure of the animal ear depends for its 
use not simply upon being surrounded by a fluid, but 
upon the specific nature of that fluid. Every fluid 
would not serve : its particles must repel one another ; 
it must form an elastic medium: for it is by the suc- 
cessive pulses of such a medium, that the undulations 
excited by the surrounding body are carried to the 
organ; that a communication is formed between the 
object and the sense ; which must be done, before the 
internal machinery of the ear, subtile as it is, can act 
at all. 

III. The organs of voice, and respiration, are, no 
less than the ear, indebted, for the success of their 
operation, to the peculiar qualities of the fluid in which 
the animal is immersed. They, therefore, as well as 
the ear, are constituted upon the supposition of such a 
fluid, i. e. of a fluid with such particular properties, 
being always present. Change the properties of the 
fluid, and the organ cannot act ; change the organ, and 
the properties of the fluid would be lost. The struc- 
ture, therefore, of our organs, and the properties of 
our atmosphere, are made for one another. Nor does 
it alter the relation, whether you allege the organ to 
be made for the element (which seems the most natural 
way of considering it), or the element as prepared for 
the organ. 


IV. But there is another fluid with which we have 
to do; with properties of its own; with laws of acting, 
and of being acted upon, totally different from those of 
air and water: and that is light. To this new, this 
singular element; to qualities perfectly peculiar, per- 
fectly distinct and remote from the qualities of any 
other substance with which we are acquainted, an organ 
is adapted, an instrument is correctly adjusted, not less 
peculiar amongst the parts of the body, not less sin- 
gular in its form, and in the substance of which it is 
composed, not less remote from the materials, the 
model, and the analogy of any other part of the animal 
frame, than the element to which it relates, is specific 
amidst the substances with which we converse. If this 
does not prove appropriation, I desire to know what 
would prove it. 

Yet the element of light and the organ of vision, 
however related in their office and use, have no con- 
nexion whatever in their original. The action of rays 
of light upon the surfaces of animals, has no tendency 
to breed eyes in their heads. The sun might shine 
for ever upon living bodies, without the smallest 
approach towards producing the sense of sight. On 
the other hand also, the animal eye does not generate 
or emit light. 

V. Throughout the universe there is a wonderful 
proportioning of one thing to another. The size of 
animals, of the human animal especially, when con- 
sidered with respect to other animals, or to the plants 
which grow around him, is such, as a regard to his con- 
veniency would have pointed out. A giant or a pigmy 
could not have milked goats, reaped corn, or mowed 
grass; we may add, could not have rode a horse, trained 


a vine, shorn a sheep, with the same bodily ease as we 
do, if at all. A pigmy would have been lost amongst 
rushes, or carried off by birds of prey. 

It may be mentioned likewise, that the model and 
the materials of the human body being what they are, 
a much greater bulk would have broken down by its 
own weight. The persons of men who much exceed 
the ordinary stature, betray this tendency. 

VI. Again (and which includes a vast variety of par- 
ticulars, and those of the greatest importance) ; how 
close is the suitableness of the earth and sea to their 
several inhabitants; and of these inhabitants, to the 
places of their appointed residence ! 

Take the earth as it is ; and consider the correspond- 
ency of the powers of its inhabitants with the properties 
and condition of the soil which they tread. Take the 
inhabitants as they are; and consider the substances 
which the earth yields for their use. They can scratch 
its surface; and its surface supplies all which they 
want. This is the length of their faculties : and such 
is the constitution of the globe, and their own, that 
this is sufficient for all their occasions. 

When we pass from the earth to the sea, from land 
to water, we pass through a great change : but an ade- 
quate change accompanies us, of animal forms and 
functions, of animal capacities and wants ; so that cor- 
respondency remains. The earth in its nature is very 
different from the sea, and the sea from the earth : but 
one accords with its inhabitants, as exactly as the other. 

VII. The last relation of this kind which I shall 
mention, is that of sleep to night; and it appears to me 
to be a relation which was expressly intended. Two 
points are manifest, first, that the animal frame re- 
quires sleep; secondly, that night brings with it a 


silence, and a cessation of activity, which allows of 
sleep being taken without interruption, and without 
loss. Animal existence is made up of action and 
slumber ; nature has provided a season for each. An 
animal which stood not in need of rest, would always 
live in daylight. An animal, which, though made for 
action, and delighting in action, must have its strength 
repaired by sleep, meets, by its constitution, the returns 
of day and night. In the human species, for instance, 
were the bustle, the labour, the motion of life upheld 
by the constant presence of light, sleep could not be 
enjoyed without being disturbed by noise, and without 
expense of that time which the eagerness of private in- 
terest would not contentedly resign. It is happy there- 
fore for this part of the creation, I mean that it is con- 
formable to the frame and wants of their constitution, 
that nature, by the very disposition of her elements, 
has commanded, as it were, and imposed upon them, at 
moderate intervals, a general intermission of their toils, 
their occupations, and pursuits. 

But it is not for man, either solely or principally, 
that night is made. Inferior, but less perverted na- 
tures, taste its solace, and expect its return, with greater 
exactness and advantage than he does. I have often 
observed, and never observed but to admire, the satis- 
faction, no less than the regularity, with which the 
greatest part of the irrational world yield to this soft 
necessity, this grateful vicissitude ; how comfortably the 
birds of the air, for example, address themselves to the 
repose of the evening; with what alertness they resume 
the activity of the day. 

Nor does it disturb our argument to confess, that 
certain species of animals are in motion during the 
night, and at rest in the day. With respect even to 


them, it is still true, that there is a change of condition 
in the animal, and an external change corresponding 
with it. There is still the relation, though inverted. 
The fact is, that the repose of other animals sets these 
at liberty, and invites them to their food or their sport. 

If the relation of sleep to night, and, in some in- 
stances, its converse, be real, we cannot reflect without 
amazement upon the extent to which it carries us. 
Day and night are things close to us ; the change ap- 
plies immediately to our sensations ; of all the pheno- 
mena of nature, it is the most obvious and the most 
familiar to our experience ; but, in its cause, it belongs 
to the great motions which are passing in the heavens. 
Whilst the earth glides round her axle, she ministers 
to the alternate necessities of the animals dwelling 
upon her surface, at the same time that she obeys the 
influence of those attractions which regulate the order 
of many thousand worlds. The relation therefore of 
sleep to night, is the relation of the inhabitants of the 
earth to the rotation of their globe; probably it is 
more ; it is a relation to the system of which that globe 
is a part; and, still farther, to the congregation of sy- 
stems, of which theirs is only one. If this account be 
true, it connects the meanest individual with the uni- 
verse itself; a chicken roosting upon its perch, with 
the spheres revolving in the firmament. 

VIII. But if any one object to our representation, 
that the succession of day and night, or the rotation of 
the earth upon which it depends, is not resolvable into 
central attraction, we will refer him to that which cer- 
tainly is, — to the change of the seasons. Now the con- 
stitution of animals susceptible of torpor, bears a rela- 
tion to winter, similar to that which sleep bears to 
night. Against not only the cold, but the want of 


food, which the approach of winter induces, the Pre- 
server of the world has provided in many animals by 
migration, in many others by torpor. As one example 
out of a thousand ; the bat, if it did not sleep through 
the winter, must have starved, as the moths and flying 
insects upon which it feeds disappear. But the transi- 
tion from summer to winter carries us into the very 
midst of physical astronomy, that is to say, into the 
midst of those laws which govern the solar system at 
least, and probably all the heavenly bodies. 



The order may not be very obvious, by which I place 
instincts next to relations. But I consider them as a 
species of relation. They contribute, along with the 
animal organisation, to a joint effect, in which view 
they are related to that organisation. In many cases, 
they refer from one animal to another animal; and, 
when this is the case, become strictly relations in a se- 
cond point of view. 

An instinct is a propensity prior to experience, and 
independent of instruction. We contend, that it is by 
instinct that the sexes of animals seek each other ; that 
animals cherish their offspring; that the young qua- 
druped is directed to the teat of its dam ; that birds 
build their nests, and brood with so much patience 
upon their eggs; that insects which do not sit upon 
their eggs, deposit them in those particular situations, 
in which the young, when hatched, find their appro- 
priate food; that it is instinct which carries the salmon, 


and some other fish, out of the sea into rivers, for the 
purpose of shedding their spawn in fresh water. 

We may select out of this catalogue the incubation 
of eggs. I jyt.prf*"" "^ do tifat, h ut t hat a couple o f 
s parrows hatched in an oven, and kept se parate from 
the rest of their species, would proceed as other spar- 
rows do, in every office which related to the production 
and preservation of their brood. Assuming this fact, 
the thing is inexplicable, upon any other hypothesis 
than that Man'in^tjyQSl^J^pressed upon the constitu- 
tion of the animal. For, first, w hat should induce the 
fema le bird to prepare a nest before she lays her eggs? 
It is in vain to suppose her to be possessed of the fa- 
culty of reasoning : for no reasoning will reach the case. 
The fulness or distention which she might feel in a par- 
ticular part of her body, from the growth and solidity 
of the egg within her, could not possibly inform her, 
that she was about to produce something, which, when 
produced, was to be preserved and taken care of. Prior 
to experien ce, the re was n othing to lead to this infe r- 
ence, or to this suspicio n. The analogy was all against 
ltT for, in every othe r instance, wha^isjuedlto 
body was cast out and rejected. 

But, secondly, let us suppose the egg to be produced 
into day ; how should birds know that their eggs con- 
tain their young? There is nothing, either in the aspect 
or in the internal composition of an egg, which could 
lead even the most daring imagination to conjecture, 
that it was hereafter to turn out from under its shell, a 
living, perfect bird. The form of the egg bears not 
the rudiments of a resemblance to that of the bird. In- 
specting its contents, we find still less reason, if possi- 
ble, to look for the result which actually takes place. 
If we should go so far, as, from the appearance of order 

VOL. IV. p 


and distinction in the disposition of the liquid sub- 
stances which we noticed in the egg, to guess that it 
might be designed for the abode and nutriment of an 
animal (which would be a very bold hypothesis), we 
should expect a tadpole dabbling in the slime, much 
rather than a dry, winged, feathered creature ; a com- 
pound of parts and properties impossible to be used in 
a state of confinement in the egg, and bearing no con- 
ceivable relation, either in quality or material, to any 
thing observed in it. From the white of an egg, would 
any one look for the feather of a goldfinch? or expect 
from a simple uniform mucilage, the most complicated 
of all machines, the most diversified of all collections 
of substances? Nor would the process of incubation, 
for some time at least, lead us to suspect the event. 
Who that saw r red streaks, shooting in the fine mem- 
brane which divides the white from the yolk, would 
suppose that these were about to become bones and 
limbs? Who, that espied two discoloured points first 
making their appearance in the cicatrix, would have 
had the courage to predict, that these points were to 
grow into the heart and head of a bird ? It is difficult 
to strip the mind of its experience. It is difficult to 
resuscitate surprise, when familiarity has once laid the 
sentiment asleep. But could we forget all that we 
know, and which our sparrows never knew, about ovi- 
parous generation ; could we divest ourselves of every 
information, but what we derived from reasoning upon 
the appearances or quality discovered in the objects pre- 
sented to us: I am convinced that Harlequin coming 
out of an egg upon the stage, is not more astonishing 
to a child, than the hatching of a chicken both would 
be, and ought to be, to a philosopher. 

But admit the sparrow by some means to know, that 


within that egg was concealed the principle of a future 
bird : from what chymist was she to learn, that warmth 
was necessary to bring it to maturity, or that the degree 
of warmth, imparted by the temperature of her own 
body, was the degree required? 

To suppose, therefore, that the female bird acts in 
this process from a sagacity and reason of her own, is 
to suppose her to arrive at conclusions which there are 
no premises to justify. If our sparrow, sitting upon 
her eggs, expect young sparrows to come out of them, 
she forms, I will venture to say, a wild and extrava- 
gant expectation, in opposition to present appearances, 
and to probability. She must have penetrated into the 
order of nature, farther than any faculties of ours will 
carry us : and it hath been well observed, that this deep 
sagacity, if it be sagacity, subsists in conjunction with 
great stupidity, even in relation to the same subject. 
" A chymical operation," says Addison, " could not 
be followed with greater art or diligence, than is seen 
in hatching a chicken: yet is the process carried on 
without the least glimmering of thought or common 
sense. The hen will mistake a piece of chalk for an 
egg; is insensible of the increase or diminution of their 
number; does not distinguish between her own and 
those of another species ; is frightened when her sup- 
posititious breed of ducklings take the water." 

But it will be said, that what reason could not do 
for the bird, observation, or instruction, or tradition, 
might. Now if it be true, that a couple of sparrows, 
brought up from the first in a state of separation from 
all other birds, would build their nest, and brood upon 
their eggs, then there is an end of this solution. What 
can be the traditionary knowledge of a chicken hatched 
in an oven? 



Of young birds taken in their nests, a few species 
breed, when kept in cages; and they which do so, 
build their nests nearly in the same manner as in the 
wild state, and sit upon their eggs. This is sufficient 
to prove an instinct, without having recourse to experi- 
ments upon birds hatched by artificial heat, and de- 
prived, from their birth, of all communication with 
their species: for we can hardly bring ourselves to be- 
lieve, that the parent bird informed her unfledged pupil 
of the history of her gestation, her timely preparation 
of a nest, her exclusion of the eggs, her long incuba- 
tion, and of the joyful eruption at last of her expected 
offspring; all which the bird in the cage must have 
learnt in her infancy, if we resolve her conduct into 

Unless we will rather suppose, that she remembers 
her own escape from the egg-, had attentively observed 
the conformation of the nest in which she was nurtured; 
and had treasured up her remarks for future imitation : 
which is not only extremely improbable, (for who, that 
sees a brood of callow birds in their nest, can believe that 
they are taking a plan of their habitation?) but leaves 
unaccounted for, one principal part of the difficulty, 
" the preparation of the nest before the laying of the 
egg." This she could not gain from observation in 
her infancy. 

It is remarkable also, that the hen sits upon eggs 
which she has laid without any communication with 
the male; and which are therefore necessarily unfruit- 
ful. That secret she is not let into. Yet if incubation 
had been a subject of instruction or of tradition, it 
should seem that this distinction would have formed 
part of the lesson: whereas the instinct of nature is 
calculated for a state of nature: the exception here 


alluded to, taking place, chiefly, if not solely, amongst 
domesticated fowls, in which nature is forced out of 
her course. 

There is another case of oviparous ceconomy, which 
is still less likely to be the effect of education, than it 
is even in birds, namely, that of moths and butterflies, 
which deposit their eggs in the precise substance, that 
of a cabbage for example, from which, not the butterfly 
herself, but the caterpillar which is to issue from her 
egg 9 draws its appropriate food. The butterfly cannot 
taste the cabbage. Cabbage is no food for her: yet in 
the cabbage, not by chance, but studiously and elec- 
tively, she lays her eggs. There are, amongst many 
other kinds, the willow-caterpillar and the cabbage- 
caterpillar: but we never find upon a willow, the cater- 
pillar which eats the cabbage ; nor the converse. This 
choice, as appears to me, cannot in the butterfly proceed 
from instruction. She had no teacher in her caterpillar 
state. She never knew her parent. I do not see, 
therefore, how knowledge acquired by experience, if it 
ever were such, could be transmitted from one genera- 
tion to another. There is no opportunity either for in- 
struction or imitation. The parent race is gone, before 
the new brood is hatched. And if it be original rea- 
soning in the butterfly, it is profound reasoning indeed. 
She must remember her caterpillar state, its tastes and 
habits : of which memory she shows no signs whatever. 
She must conclude from analogy (for here her recollec- 
tion cannot serve her), that the little round body which 
drops from her abdomen, will at a future period produce 
a living creature, not like herself, but like the caterpillar 
which she remembers herself once to have been. Under 
the influence of these reflections, she goes about to 


make provision for an order of things, which she con- 
cludes will, some time or other, take place. And it is 
to be observed, that not a few out of many, but that all 
butterflies argue thus; all draw this conclusion; all act 
upon it. 

But suppose the address, and the selection, and the 
plan, which we perceive in the preparations which many 
irrational animals make for their young, to be traced to 
some probable origin ; still there is left to be accounted 
for, that which is the source and foundation of these 
phenomena, that which sets the whole at work, the 
crowy, the parental affection, which I contend to be 
inexplicable upon any other hypothesis than that of 

For we shall hardly, I imagine, in brutes, refer their 
conduct towards their offspring to a sense of duty, or 
of decency, a care of reputation, a compliance with 
public manners, with public laws, or with rules of life 
built upon a long experience of their utility. And all 
attempts to account for the parental affection from as- 
sociation, I think, fail. With what is it associated ? 
Most immediately with the throes of parturition, that 
is, with pain and terror and disease. The more remote 
but not less strong association, that which depends upon 
analogy, is all against it. Every thing else, which pro- 
ceeds from the body, is cast away, and rejected. In 
birds, is it the egg which the hen loves? or is it the ex- 
pectation which she cherishes of a future progeny, that 
keeps her upon her nest? What cause has she to expect 
delight from her progeny? Can any rational answer be 
given to the question, why, prior to experience, the 
brooding hen should look for pleasure from her chick- 
ens? It does not, I think, appear, that the cuckoo ever 


knows her young; yet, in her way, she is as careful in 
making provision for them, as any other bird. She 
does not leave her egg in every hole. 

The salmon suffers no surmountable obstacle to op- 
pose her progress up the stream of fresh rivers. And 
what does she do there? She sheds a spawn, which she 
immediately quits, in order to return to the sea: and 
this issue of her body she never afterwards recognises 
in any shape whatever. Where shall we find a motive 
for her efforts and her perseverance? Shall we seek it 
in argumentation, or in instinct? The violet crab of 
Jamaica performs a fatiguing march of some months' 
continuance from the mountains to the sea-side. When 
she reaches the coast, she casts her spawn into the open 
sea , and sets out upon her return home. 

Moths and butterflies, as hath already been observed, 
seek out for their eggs those precise situations and sub- 
stances in which the offspring caterpillar will find its 
appropriate food. That dear caterpillar, the parent 
butterfly must never see. There are no experiments 
to prove that she would retain any knowledge of it, if 
she did. How shall we account for her conduct? I do 
not mean for her art and judgement in selecting and 
securing a maintenance for her young, but for the im- 
pulse upon which she acts. What should induce her 
to exert any art, or judgement, or choice, about the 
matter? The undisclosed grub, the animal which she 
is destined not to know, can hardly be the object of a 
particular affection, if we deny the influence of instinct. 
There is nothing, therefore, left to her, but that of 
which her nature seems incapable, an abstract anxiety 
for the general preservation of the species ; a kind of 
patriotism ; a solicitude lest the butterfly race should 
cease from the creation. 


Lastly, the principle of association will not explain 
the discontinuance of the affection when the young ani- 
mal is grown up. Association, operating in its usual way, 
would rather produce a contrary effect. The object 
would become more necessary, by habits of society; 
whereas birds and beasts, after a certain time, banish 
their offspring; disown their acquaintance; seem to 
have even no knowledge of the objects which so lately 
engrossed the attention of their minds, and occupied 
the industry and labour of their bodies. This change, 
in different animals, takes place at different distances 
of time from the birth; but the time always corresponds 
with the ability of the young animal to maintain itself ; 
never anticipates it. In the sparrow tribe, when it is 
perceived that the young brood can fly, and shift for 
themselves, then the parents forsake them for ever; 
and, though they continue to live together, pay them 
no more attention than they do to other birds in the 
same flock*. I believe the same thing is true of all 
gregarious quadrupeds. 

In this part of the case, the variety of resources, ex- 
pedients, and materials, which animals of the same 
species are said to have recourse to, under different cir- 
cumstances, and when differently supplied, makes no- 
thing against the doctrine of instincts. The thing 
which we want to account for, is the propensity. The 
propensity being there, it is probable enough that it 
may put the animal upon different actions, according 
to different exigencies. And this adaptation of re- 
sources may look like the effect of art and consideration, 
rather than of instinct : but still the propensity is in- 
stinctive, For instance, suppose what is related of the 
woodpecker to be true, that in Europe she deposits her 
* Goldsmith's Natural History, vol. iv. p. 244. 


eggs in cavities, which she scoops out in the trunks of 
soft or decayed trees, and in which cavities the eggs lie 
concealed from the eye, and in some sort safe from the 
hand of man : but that, in the forests of Guinea and 
the Brazils, which man seldom frequents, the same bird 
hangs her nest to the twigs of tall trees; thereby 
placing them out of the reach of monkeys and snakes; 
i, e. that in each situation she prepares against the 
danger which she has most occasion to apprehend; 
suppose, I say, this to be true, and to be alleged, on 
the part of the bird that builds these nests, as evidence 
of a reasoning and distinguishing precaution : still the 
question returns, whence the propensity to build at all? 

Nor does parental affection accompany generation by 
any universal law of animal organisation, if such a thing 
were intelligible. Some animals cherish their progeny 
with the most ardent fondness, and the most assiduous 
attention ; others entirely neglect them : and this distinc- 
tion always meets the constitution of the young animal, 
with respect to its wants and capacities. In many, the 
parental care extends to the young animal ; in others, 
as in all oviparous fish, it is confined to the egg, and, 
even, as to that, to the disposal of it in its proper 
element. Also, as there is generation without parental 
affection, so is there parental instinct, or what exactly 
resembles it, without generation. In the bee tribe, the 
grub is nurtured neither by the father nor the mother, 
but by the neutral bee. Probably the case is the same 
with ants. 

I am not ignorant of the theory which resolves 
instinct into sensation ; which asserts, that what appears 
to have a view and relation to the future, is the result 
only of the present disposition of the animal's body, 
and of pleasure or pain experienced at the time. Thus 


the incubation of eggs is accounted for by the pleasure 
which the bird is supposed to receive from the pressure 
of the smooth convex surface of the shells against the 
abdomen, or by the relief which the mild temperature 
of the egg may afford to the heat of the lower part of 
the body, which is observed at this time to be increased 
beyond its usual state. This present gratification is 
the only motive with the hen for sitting upon her nest ; 
the hatching of the chickens is, with respect to her, an 
accidental consequence. The affection of viviparous 
animals for their young is, in like manner, solved by 
the relief, and perhaps the pleasure, which they per- 
ceive from giving suck. The young animal's seeking, 
in so many instances, the teat of its dam, is explained 
from its sense of smell, which is attracted by the odour 
of milk. The salmon's urging its way up the stream 
of fresh-water rivers, is attributed to some gratification 
or refreshment, which, in this particular state of the 
fish's body, she receives from the change of element. 
Now of this theory it may be said, 

First, that of the cases which require solution, there 
are few to which it can be applied with tolerable pro- 
bability; that there are none to which it can be applied 
without strong objections, furnished by the circum- 
stances of the case. The attention of the cow to its 
calf, and of the ewe to its lamb, appear to be prior to 
their sucking. The attraction of the calf or lamb to 
the teat of the dam is not explained by simply referring 
it to the sense of smell. What made the scent of milk 
so agreeable to the lamb, that it should follow it up 
with its nose, or seek with its mouth the place from 
which it proceeded? No observation, no experience, 
no argument could teach the new-dropped animal, that 
the substance from which the scent issued was the 


material of its food. It had never tasted milk before 
its birth. None of the animals which are not designed 
for that nourishment, ever offer to suck, or to seek out 
any such food. What is the conclusion, but that the 
sugescent parts of animals are fitted for their use, and 
the knowledge of that use put into them ? 

We assert, secondly, that, even as to the cases in 
which the hypothesis has the fairest claim to con- 
sideration, it does not at all lessen the force of the 
argument for intention and design. The doctrine of 
instinct is that of appetencies, superadded to the con- 
stitution of an animal, for the effectuating of a purpose 
beneficial to the species. The above-stated solution 
would derive these appetencies from organisation; but 
then this organisation is not less specifically, not less 
precisely, and, therefore, not less evidently adapted to 
the same ends, than the appetencies themselves would 
be upon the old hypothesis. In this way of considering 
the subject, sensation supplies the place of foresight: 
but this is the effect of contrivance on the part of the 
Creator. Let it be allowed, for example, that the hen 
is induced to brood upon her eggs by the enjoyment or 
relief, which, in the heated state of her abdomen, she 
experiences from the pressure of round smooth surfaces, 
or from the application of a temperate warmth. How 
comes this extraordinary heat or itching, or call it what 
you will, which you suppose to be the cause of the 
bird's inclination, to be felt, just at the time when the 
inclination itself is wanted: when it tallies so exactly 
with the internal constitution of the egg, and with the 
help which that constitution requires in order to bring 
it to maturity? In my opinion, this solution, if it be 
accepted as to the fact, ought to increase, rather than 
otherwise, our admiration of the contrivance. A gar- 


dener lighting up his stoves, just when he wants to 
force his fruit, and when his trees require the heat, 
gives not a more certain evidence of design. So again ; 
when a male and female sparrow come together, they 
do not meet to confer upon the expediency of per- 
petuating their species. As an abstract proposition, 
they care not the value of a barley-corn, whether the 
species be perpetuated, or not : they follow their sensa- 
tions; and all those consequences ensue, which the 
wisest counsels could have dictated, which the most 
solicitous care of futurity, which the most anxious con- 
cern for the sparrow-world, could have produced. But 
how do these consequences ensue? The sensations, and 
the constitution upon which they depend, are as mani- 
festly directed to the purpose which we see fulfilled by 
them ; and the train of intermediate effects, as mani- 
festly laid and planned with a view to that purpose: 
that is to say, design is as completely evinced by the 
phenomena, as it would be, even if we suppose the ope- 
rations to begin, or to be carried on, from what some 
will allow to be alone properly called instincts, that is, 
from desires directed to a future end, and having no 
accomplishment or gratification distinct from the attain- 
ment of that end. 

In a word : I should say to the patrons of this opi- 
nion, Be it so; be it, that those actions of animals which 
we refer to instinct, are not gone about with any view to 
their consequences, but that they are attended in the 
animal with a present gratification, and are pursued for 
the sake of that gratification alone ; what does all this 
prove, but that the prospection, which must be some- 
where, is not in the animal, but in the Creator? 

In treating of the parental affection in brutes, our 
business lies rather with the origin of the principle, than 


with the effects and expressions of it. Writers recount 
these with pleasure and admiration. The conduct of 
many kinds of animals towards their young has escaped 
no observer, no historian of nature. " How will they 
caress them," says Derham, " with their affectionate 
notes; lull and quiet them with their tender parental 
voice; put food into their mouths; cherish and keep 
them warm; teach them to pick, and eat, and gather 
food for themselves ; and, in a word, perform the part 
of so many nurses, deputed by the Sovereign Lord and 
Preserver of the world, to help such young and shift- 
less creatures!" Neither ought it, under this head, to 
be forgotten, how much the instinct costs the animal 
which feels it ; how much a bird, for example, gives up, 
by sitting upon her nest ; how repugnant it is to her 
organisation, her habits, and her pleasures. An animal, 
formed for liberty, submits to confinement, in the very 
season when every thing invites her abroad: what is 
more; an animal delighting in motion, made for motion, 
all whose motions are so easy and so free, hardly a 
moment, at other times, at rest, is, for many hours of 
many days together, fixed to her nest, as close as if her 
limbs were tied down by pins and wires. For my part, 
I never see a bird in that situation, but I recognise an 
invisible hand, detaining the contented prisoner from 
her fields and groves, for the purpose, as the event 
proves, the most worthy of the sacrifice, the most im- 
portant, the most beneficial. 

But the loss of liberty is not the whole of what the 
procreant bird suffers. Harvey tells us, that he has 
often found the female wasted to skin and bone by 
sitting upon her eggs. 

One observation more, and I will dismiss the subject. 
The pairing of birds, and the non-pairing of beasts, 


forms a distinction between the two classes, which shows, 
that the conjugal instinct is modified with a reference 
to utility founded on the condition of the offspring. 
In quadrupeds, the young animal draws its nutriment 
from the body of the dam. The male parent neither 
does, nor can contribute any part to its sustentation. 
In the winged race, the young bird is supplied by an 
importation of food, to procure and bring home which, 
in a sufficient quantity for the demand of a numerous 
brood, requires the industry of both parents. In this 
difference, we see a reason for the vagrant instinct of 
the quadruped, and for the faithful love of the feathered 



We are not writing a system of natural history; 
therefore we have not attended to the classes into which 
the subjects of that science are distributed. What we 
had to observe concerning different species of animals, 
fell easily, for the most part, within the divisions which 
the course of our argument led us to adopt. There 
remain, however, some remarks upon the insect tribe, 
which could not properly be introduced under any of 
these heads ; and which therefore we have collected into 
a chapter by themselves. 

The structure, and the use of the parts, of insects, 
are less understood than that of quadrupeds and birds, 
not only by reason of their minuteness, or the minute- 
ness of their parts (for that minuteness we can, in some 
measure, follow with glasses), but also by reason of the 


remoteness of their manners and modes of life from 
those of larger animals. For instance : Insects, under 
all their varieties of form, are endowed with antennce, 
which is the name given to those long feelers that rise 
from each side of the head : but to what common use 
or want of the insect kind, a provision so universal is 
subservient, has not yet been ascertained: and it has 
not been ascertained, because it admits not of a clear, 
or very probable, comparison, with any organs which 
we possess ourselves, or with the organs of animals 
which resemble ourselves in their functions and facul- 
ties, or with which we are better acquainted than we 
are with insects. We want a ground of analogy. This 
difficulty stands in our way as to some particulars in 
the insect constitution, which we might wish to be 
acquainted with. Nevertheless, there are many con- 
trivances in the bodies of insects, neither dubious in 
their use, nor obscure in their structure, and most 
properly mechanical. These form parts of our argu- 

I. The elytra, or scaly wings of the genus of sca- 
rabaeus or beetle, furnish an example of this kind. The 
true wing of the animal is a light, transparent mem- 
brane, finer than the finest gauze, and not unlike it. 
It is also, when expanded, in proportion to the size of 
the animal, very large. In order to protect this delicate 
structure, and, perhaps, also to preserve it in a due 
state of suppleness and humidity, a strong, hard case is 
given to it, in the shape of the horny wing which we 
call the elytron. When the animal is at rest, the gauze 
wings lie folded up under this impenetrable shield. 
When the beetle prepares for flying, he raises the inte- 
gument, and spreads out his thin membrane to the air. 
And it cannot be observed without admiration, what a 


tissue of cordage, i. e. of muscular tendons, must run 
in various and complicated, but determinate directions, 
along this fine surface, in order to enable the animal, 
either to gather it up into a certain precise form, when- 
ever it desires to place its wings under the shelter which 
nature hath given to them ; or to expand again their 
folds when wanted for action. 

In some insects, the elytra cover the whole body; 
in others, half; in others only a small part of it ; but 
in all, they completely hide and cover the true wings. 

Many or most of the beetle species lodge in holes in 
the earth, environed by hard, rough substances, and 
have frequently to squeeze their way through narrow 
passages; in which situation, wings so tender, and so 
large, could scarcely have escaped injury, without both 
a firm covering to defend them, and the capacity of 
collecting themselves up under its protection. 

II. Another contrivance, equally mechanical, and 
equally clear, is the awl, or borer, fixed at the tails of 
various species of flies ; and with which they pierce, in 
some cases, plants ; in others, wood ; in others, the skin 
and flesh of animals; in others, the coat of the chry- 
salis of insects of a different species from their own; 
and in others, even lime, mortar, and stone. I need 
not add, that having pierced the substance, they deposit 
their eggs in the hole. The descriptions which na- 
turalists give of this organ, are such as the following: It 
is a sharp-pointed instrument, which, in its inactive 
state, lies concealed in the extremity of the abdomen, 
and which the animal draws out at pleasure, for the 
purpose of making a puncture in the leaves, stem, or 
bark, of the particular plant, which is suited to the 
nourishment of its young. In a sheath, which divides 


and opens whenever the organ is used, there is enclosed 
a compact, solid, dentated stem, along which runs a 
gutter or groove, by which groove, after the penetration 
is effected, the egg, assisted, in some cases, by a peri- 
staltic motion, passes to its destined lodgement. In the 
cestrum or gad-fly, the wimble draws out like the 
pieces of a spy -glass: the last piece is armed with 
three hooks, and is able to bore through the hide of an 
ox. Can any thing more be necessary to display the 
mechanism, than to relate the fact? 

III. The stings of insects, though for a different 
purpose, are, in their structure, not unlike the piercer. 
The sharpness to which the point in all of them is 
wrought ; the temper and firmness of the substance of 
which it is composed ; the strength of the muscles by 
which it is darted out, compared with the smallness 
and weakness of the insect, and with the soft and 
friable texture of the rest of the body; are properties 
of the sting to be noticed, and not a little to be admired. 
The sting of a bee will pierce through a goat-skin glove. 
It penetrates the human flesh more readily than the 
finest point of a needle. The action of the sting affords 
an example of the union of chymistry and mechanism, 
such as, if it be not a proof of contrivance, nothing is. 
First, as to the chymistry; how highly concentrated 
must be the venom, which, in so small a quantity, can 
produce such powerful effects! And in the bee we 
may observe, that this venom is made from honey, the 
only food of the insect, but the last material from which 
I should have expected that an exalted poison could, 
by any process or digestion whatsoever, have been 
prepared. In the next place, with respect to the 
mechanism, the sting is not a simple, but a compound 
instrument. The visible sting, though drawn to a 

VOL. IV. Q, 


point exquisitely sharp, is in strictness only a sheath; 
for, near to the extremity, may be perceived by the 
microscope two minute orifices, from which orifices, in 
the act of stinging, and, as it should seem, after the 
point of the main sting has buried itself in the flesh, 
are launched out two subtile rays, which may be called 
the true or proper stings, as being those through which 
the poison is infused into the puncture already made 
by the exterior sting. I have said, that chymistry and 
mechanism are here united: by which observation I 
meant, that all this machinery would have been useless, 
telum imbelle, if a supply of poison, intense in quality, 
in proportion to the smallness of the drop, had not 
been furnished to it by the chymical elaboration which 
was carried on in the insect's body; and that, on the 
other hand, the poison, the result of this process, could 
not have attained its effect, or reached its enemy, if, 
when it was collected at the extremity of the abdomen, 
it had not found there a machinery fitted to conduct it 
to the external situations in which it was to operate, 
viz. an awl to bore a hole, and a syringe to inject the 
fluid. Yet these attributes, though combined in their 
action, are independent in their origin. The venom 
does not breed the sting ; nor does the sting concoct 
the venom. 

IV. The proboscis, with which many insects are 
endowed, comes next in order to be considered. It is 
a tube attached to the head of the animal. In the bee, 
it is composed of two pieces, connected by a joint: for, 
if it were constantly extended, it would be too much 
exposed to accidental injuries; therefore, in its indolent 
state, it is doubled up by means of the joint, and in 
that position lies secure under a scaly penthouse. In 
many species of the butterfly, the proboscis, when not 


in use, is coiled up like a watch-spring. In the same 
bee, the proboscis serves the office of the mouth, the 
insect having no other ; and how much better adapted 
it is, than a mouth would be, for the collecting of the 
proper nourishment of the animal, is sufficiently evident. 
The food of the bee is the nectar of flowers ; a drop of 
syrup, lodged deep in the bottom of the corolla?, in the 
recesses of the petals, or down the neck of a monope- 
talous glove. Into these cells the bee thrusts its long 
narrow pump, through the cavity of which it sucks up 
this precious fluid, inaccessible to every other approach. 
It is observable also, that the plant is not the worse 
for what the bee does to it. The harmless plunderer 
rifles the sweets, but leaves the flower uninjured. The 
ringlets of which the proboscis of the bee is composed, 
the muscles by which it is extended and contracted, 
form so many microscopical wonders. The agility also, 
with which it is moved, can hardly fail to excite ad- 
miration. But it is enough for our purpose to observe, 
in general, the suitableness of the structure to the use, 
of the means to the end, and especially the wisdom by 
which nature has departed from its most general analogy 
(for, animals being furnished with mouths are such), 
when the purpose could be better answered by the 

In some insects, the proboscis, or tongue, or trunk, 
is shut up in a sharp-pointed sheath: which sheath, 
being of a much firmer texture than the proboscis 
itself, as well as sharpened at the point, pierces the 
substance which contains the food, and then opens 
within the wound, to allow the enclosed tube, through 
which the juice is extracted, to perform its office. Can 
any mechanism be plainer than this is; or surpass this? 

V. The metamorphosis of insects from grubs into 



moths and flies, is an astonishing process. A hairy 
caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. Observe 
the change. We have four beautiful wings, where 
there were none before ; a tubular proboscis, in the place 
of a mouth with jaws and teeth ; six long legs, instead of 
fourteen feet. In another case, we see a white, smooth, 
soft worm, turned into a black, hard, crustaceous beetle, 
with gauze wings. These, as I said, are astonishing 
processes, and must require, as it should seem, a pro- 
portionably artificial apparatus. The hypothesis which 
appears to me most probable is, that, in the grub, there 
exist at the same time three animals, one within 
another, all nourished by the same digestion, and by a 
communicating circulation; but in different stages of 
maturity. The latest discoveries made by naturalists 
seem to favour this supposition. The insect already 
equipped with wings, is descried under the membranes 
both of the worm and nymph. In some species, the 
proboscis, the antenna?, the limbs, and wings of the fly, 
have been observed to be folded up within the body of 
the caterpillar; and with such nicety as to occupy a 
small space only under the two first wings. This 
being so, the outermost animal, which, besides its own 
proper character, serves as an integument to the other 
two, being the farthest advanced, dies, as we suppose, 
and drops off first. The second, the pupa or chrysalis, 
then offers itself to observation. This also, in its turn, 
dies; its dead and brittle husk falls to pieces, and 
makes way for the appearance of the fly or moth. 
Now, if this be the case, or indeed whatever explication 
be adopted, we have a prospective contrivance of the 
most curious kind : we have organisations three deep ; 
yet a vascular system, which supplies nutrition, growth, 
and life, to all of them together. 


VI. Almost all insects are oviparous. Nature 
keeps her butterflies, moths, and caterpillars, locked 
up during the winter in their egg- state; and we have 
to admire the various devices to which, if we may so 
speak, the same nature hath resorted, for the security 
of the egg. Many insects enclose their eggs in a silken 
web ; others cover them with a coat of hair, torn from 
their own bodies; some glue them together; and 
others, like the moth of the silkworm, glue them to 
the leaves upon which they are deposited, that they 
may not be shaken off by the wind, or washed away by 
rain: some again make incisions into leaves, and hide 
an egg in each incision; whilst some envelope their 
eggs with a soft substance, which forms the first 
aliment of the young animal : and some again make a 
hole in the earth, and, having stored it with a quantity 
of proper food, deposit their eggs in it. In all which 
we are to observe, that the expedient depends, not so 
much upon the address of the animal, as upon the 
physical resources of his constitution. 

The art also with which the young insect is coiled 
up in the egg, presents, where it can be examined, 
a subject of great curiosity. The insect, furnished 
with all the members which it ought to have, is 
rolled up into a form which seems to contract it 
into the least possible space; by which contraction, 
notwithstanding the smallness of the egg, it has room 
enough in its apartment, and to spare. This folding 
of the limbs appears to me to indicate a special di- 
rection ; for, if it were merely the effect of compres- 
sion, the collocation of the parts would be more various 
than it is. In the same species, I believe, it is always 
the same. 

These observations belong to the whole insect tribe, 
or to a great part of them. Other observations are 


limited to fewer species; but not, perhaps, less im- 
portant or satisfactory. 

I, The organisation in the abdomen of the silkworm, 
or spider, whereby these insects form their thread, is 
as incontestably mechanical as a wire-drawer's mill. 
In the body of the silkworm are two bags, remarkable 
for their form, position, and use. They wind round 
the intestine; when drawn out, they are ten inches in 
length, though the animal itself be only two. Within 
these bags, is collected a glue; and communicating 
with the bags, are two paps or outlets, perforated, like 
a grater, by a number of small holes. The glue or 
gum, being passed through these minute apertures, 
forms hairs of almost imperceptible fineness; and these 
hairs, when joined, compose the silk which we wind off 
from the cone, in which the silkworm has wrapped 
itself up : in the spider, the web is formed from this 
thread. In both cases, the extremity of the thread, by 
means of its adhesive quality, is first attached by the 
animal to some external hold ; and the end being now 
fastened to a point, the insect, by turning round its 
body, or by receding from that point, draws out the 
thread through the holes above described, by an opera- 
tion, as hath been observed, exactly similar to the 
drawing of wire. The thread, like the wire, is formed 
by the hole through which it passes. In one respect 
there is a difference. The wire is the metal unaltered, 
except in figure. In the animal process, the nature of 
the substance is somewhat changed, as well as the form ; 
for, as it exists within the insect, it is a soft, clammy 
gum, or glue. The thread acquires, it is probable, its 
finnness and tenacity from the action of the air upon 
its surface, in the moment of exposure ; and a thread 
so fine is almost all surface. This property, however, 
of the paste, is part of the contrivance. 


The mechanism itself consists of the bags, or reseiv 
voirs, into which the glue is collected, and of the ex- 
ternal holes communicating with these bags; and the 
action of the machine is seen, in the forming of a 
thread, as wire is formed, by forcing the material al- 
ready prepared through holes of proper dimensions. 
The secretion is an act too subtile for our discernment, 
except as we perceive it by the produce. But one 
thing answers to another; the secretory glands to the 
quality and consistence required in the secreted sub- 
stance; the bag to its reception: the outlets and orifices 
are constructed, not merely for relieving the reservoirs 
of their burden, but for manufacturing the contents 
into a form and texture, of great external use, or rather 
indeed of future necessity, to the life and functions of 
the insect. 

II. Bees, under one character or other, have fur- 
nished every naturalist with a set of observations. I 
shall, in this place, confine myself to one ; and that is 
the relation which obtains between the wax and the 
honey. No person who has inspected a bee-hive, can 
forbear remarking how commodiously the honey is be- 
stowed in the comb; and, amongst other advantages, 
how effectually the fermentation of the honey is pre- 
vented by distributing it into small cells. The fact is, 
that when the honey is separated from the comb, and 
put into jars, it runs into fermentation, with a much 
less degree of heat than what takes place in a hive. 
This may be reckoned a nicety: but, independently of 
any nicety in the matter, I would ask, what could the 
bee do with the honey, if it had not the wax? how, at 
least, could it store it up for winter? The wax, there- 
fore, answers a purpose with respect to the honey; and 
the honey constitutes that purpose with respect to the 


wax. This is the relation between them. But the 
two substances, though, together, of the greatest use, 
and, without each other, of little, come from a different 
origin. The bee finds the honey, but makes the wax. 
The honey is lodged in the nectaria of flowers, and 
probably undergoes little alteration; is merely col- 
lected: whereas the wax is a ductile, tenacious paste, 
made out of a dry powder, not simply by kneading it 
with a liquid, but by a digestive process in the body of 
the bee. What account can be rendered of facts so 
circumstanced, but that the animal, being intended to 
feed upon honey, was, by a peculiar external configura- 
tion, enabled to procure it? That, moreover, wanting 
the honey when it could not be procured at all, it was 
farther endued with the no less necessary faculty, of 
constructing repositories for its preservation? Which 
faculty, it is evident, must depend, primarily, upon the 
capacity of providing suitable materials. Two distinct 
functions go to make up the ability. First, the power 
in the bee, with respect to wax, of loading the farina 
of flowers upon its thighs. Microscopic observers speak 
of the spoon-shaped appendages with which the thighs 
of bees are beset for this very purpose; but, inasmuch 
as the art and will of the bee may be supposed to be 
concerned in this operation, there is, secondly, that 
which doth not rest in art or will, — a digestive faculty 
which converts the loose powder into a stiff substance. 
This is a just account of the honey and the honey- 
comb; and this account, through every part, carries a 
creative intelligence along with it. 

The sting also of the bee has this relation to the 
honey, that it is necessary for the protection of a trea- 
sure which invites so many robbers. 

III. Our business is with mechanism. In the pa- 


norpa tribe of insects, there is a forceps in the tail of the 
male insect, with which he catches and holds the female. 
Are a pair of pincers more mechanical than this pro- 
vision in its structure? or is any structure more clear 
and certain in its design? 

IV. St. Pierre tells us*, that in a fly with six feet 
(I do not remember that he describes the species), the 
pair next the head and the pair next the tail have 
brushes at their extremities, with which the fly dresses, 
as there may be occasion, the anterior or the posterior 
part of its body; but that the middle pair have no such 
brushes, the situation of these legs not admitting of the 
brushes, if they were there, being converted to the same 
use. This is a very exact mechanical distinction. 

V. If the reader, looking to our distributions of 
science, wish to contemplate the chymistry, as well as 
the mechanism, of nature, the insect creation will afford 
him an example. I refer to the light in the tail of a 
glow-worm. Two points seem to be agreed upon by 
naturalists concerning it; first, that it is phosphoric; 
secondly, that its use is to attract the male insect. The 
only thing to be inquired after, is the singularity, if 
any such there be, in the natural history of this animal, 
which should render a provision of this kind more ne- 
cessary for it, than for other insects. That singularity 
seems to be the difference which subsists between the 
male and the female ; which difference is greater than 
what we find in any other species of animal whatever. 
The glow-worm is a female caterpillar; the male of 
which is 2ifly; lively, comparatively small, dissimilar 
to the female in appearance, probably also as distin- 
guished from her in habits, pursuits, and manners, as 
he is unlike in form and external constitution. Here 

* Vol. i. p. 342. 


then is the adversity of the case. The caterpillar can- 
not meet her companion in the air. The winged rover 
disdains the ground. They might never therefore be 
brought together, did not this radiant torch direct the 
volatile mate to his sedentary female. 

In this example, we also see the resources of art an- 
ticipated. One grand operation of chymistry is the 
making of phosphorus: and it was thought an inge- 
nious device, to make phosphoric matches supply the 
place of lighted tapers. Now this very thing is done 
in the body of the glow-worm. The phosphorus is not 
only made, but kindled; and caused to emit a steady 
and genial beam, for the purpose which is here stated, 
and which I believe to be the true one. 

VI. Nor is the last the only instance that entomo- 
logy affords, in which our discoveries, or rather our 
projects, turn out to be imitations of nature. Some 
years ago, apian was suggested, of producing propul- 
sion by re-action in this way : By the force of a steam- 
engine, a stream of water was to be shot out of the 
stern of a boat ; the impulse of which stream upon the 
water in the river, was to push the boat itself forward ; 
it is, in truth, the principle by which sky-rockets ascend 
in the air. Of the use or practicability of the plan, I 
am not speaking; nor is it my concern to praise its in- 
genuity: but it is certainly a contrivance. Now, if 
naturalists are to be believed, it is exactly the device 
which nature has made use of, for the motion of some 
species of aquatic insects. The larva of the dragon-fly, 
according to Adams, swims by ejecting water from its 
tail; is driven forward by the re-action of water in 
the pool upon the current issuing in a direction back- 
ward from its body. 

VII. Again: Europe has lately been surprised by 


the elevation of bodies in the air by means of a balloon. 
The discovery consisted in finding out a manageable 
substance, which was, bulk for bulk, lighter than air: 
and the application of the discovery was, to make a 
body composed of this substance bear up, along with its 
own weight, some heavier body which was attached to 
it. This expedient, so new to us, proves to be no other 
than what the Author of nature has employed in the 
gossamer spider. We frequently see this spider's 
thread floating in the air, and extended from hedge to 
hedge, across a road or brook of four or five yards 
width. The animal which forms the thread, has no 
wings wherewith to fly from one extremity to the other 
of this line \ nor muscles to enable it to spring or dart 
to so great a distance: yet its Creator hath laid for it 
a path in the atmosphere; and after this manner. 
Though the animal itself be heavier than air, the 
thread which it spins from its bowels is specifically 
lighter. This is its balloon. The spider, left to itself, 
would drop to the ground ; but being tied to its thread, 
both are supported. We have here a very peculiar pro- 
vision: and to a contemplative eye it is a gratifying 
spectacle, to see this insect wafted on her thread, sus- 
tained by a levity not her own, and traversing regions, 
which, if we examined only the body of the animal, 
might seem to have been forbidden to its nature. 

I must now crave the reader's permission to intro- 
duce into this place, for want of a better, an observation 
or two upon the tribe of animals, whether belonging to 
land or water, which are covered by shells. 

I. The shells of snails are a wonderful, a mechanical, 
and, if one might so speak concerning the works of 


nature, an original contrivance. Other animals have 
their proper retreats, their hybernacula also, or winter- 
quarters, but the snail carries these about with him. 
He travels with his tent ; and this tent, though, as was 
necessary, both light and thin, is completely impervious 
either to moisture or air. The young snail comes out 
of its egg with the shell upon its back ; and the gradual 
enlargement which the shell receives, is derived from 
the slime excreted by the animal's skin. Now the apt- 
ness of this excretion to the purpose, its property of 
hardening into a shell, and the action, whatever it be, 
of the animal, whereby it avails itself of its gift, and of 
the constitution of its glands (to say nothing of the 
work being commenced before the animal is born), are 
things which can, with no probability, be referred to 
any other cause than to express design ; and that not 
on the part of the animal alone, in which design, though 
it might build the house, it could not have supplied the 
material. The will of the animal could not determine 
the quality of the excretion. Add to which, that the 
shell of the snail, with its pillar and convolution, is a 
very artificial fabric ; whilst a snail, as it should seem, 
is the most numb and unprovided of all artificers. In 
the midst of variety, there is likewise a regularity which 
could hardly be expected. In the same species of snail, 
the number of turns is usually, if not always, the same. 
The sealing up of the mouth of the shell by the snail, 
is also well calculated for its warmth and security; but 
the cerate is not of the same substance with the shell. 

II. Much of what has been observed of snails, be- 
longs to shell-fish) and their shells, particularly to those 
of the univalve kind ; with the addition of two remarks : 
one of which is upon the great strength and hardness 
of most of these shells. I do not know whether, the 


weight being given, art can produce so strong a case as 
are some of these shells. Which defensive strength suits 
well with the life of an animal, that has often to sustain the 
dangers of a stormy element, and a rocky bottom, as 
well as the attacks of voracious fish. The other remark 
is, upon the property, in the animal excretion, not only 
of congealing, but of congealing, or, as a builder would 
call it, setting, in water, and into a cretaceous substance, 
firm and hard. This property is much more extraor- 
dinary, and, chymically speaking, more specific, than 
that of hardening in the air; which may be reckoned 
a kind of exsiccation, like the drying of clay into bricks. 

III. In the bivalve order of shell-fish, cockles, mus- 
cles, oysters, &c. what contrivance can be so simple or 
so clear, as the insertion, at the back, of a tough ten- 
dinous substance, that becomes at once the ligament 
which binds the two shells together, and the hinge 
upon which they open and shut? 

IV. The shell of a lobster's tail, in its articulations 
and overlappings, represents the jointed part of a coat of 
mail ; or rather, which I believe to be the truth, a coat 
of mail is an imitation of a lobster's shell. The same 
end is to be answered by both ; the same properties, 
therefore, are required in both, namely, hardness and 
flexibility, a covering which may guard the part with- 
out obstructing its motion. For this double purpose, 
the art of man, expressly exercised upon the subject, 
has not been able to devise any thing better than what 
nature presents to his observation. Is not this there- 
fore mechanism, which the mechanic, having a similar 
purpose in view, adopts ? Is the structure of a coat of 
mail to be referred to art? Is the same structure of 
the lobster, conducing to the same use, to be referred 
to any thing less than art? 


Some, who may acknowledge the imitation, and as- 
sent to the inference which we draw from it, in the in- 
stance before us, may be disposed, possibly, to ask, why 
such imitations are not more frequent than they are, if 
it be true, as we allege, that the same principle of in- 
telligence, design, and mechanical contrivance, was 
exerted in the formation of natural bodies, as we em- 
ploy in the making of the various instruments by which 
our purposes are served? The answers to this question 
are, first, that it seldom happens, that precisely the 
same purpose, and no other, is pursued in any work 
which we compare, of nature and of art ; secondly, that 
it still more seldom happens, that we can imitate na- 
ture, if we would. Our materials and our workman- 
ship are equally deficient. Springs and wires, and cork 
and leather, produce a poor substitute for an arm or a 
hand. In the example which we have selected, I mean 
a lobster's shell compared with a coat of mail, these 
difficulties stand less in the way, than in almost any 
other that can be assigned : and the consequence is, as 
we have seen, that art gladly borrows from nature her 
contrivance, and imitates it closely. 

But to return to insects. I think it is in this class 
of animals above all others, especially when we take in 
the multitude of species which the microscope discovers, 
that we are struck with what Cicero has called " the 
insatiable variety of nature." There are said to be six 
thousand species of flies ; seven hundred and sixty but- 
terflies ; each different from all the rest. (St. Pierre.) 
The same writer tells us, from his own observation, 
that thirty-seven species of winged insects, with distinc- 
tions well expressed, visited a single strawberry-plant 


in the course of three weeks # . Ray observed, within 
the compass of a mile or two of his own house, two 
hundred kinds of butterflies, nocturnal and diurnal. 
He likewise asserts, but, I think, without any grounds 
of exact computation, that the number of species of in- 
sects, reckoning all sorts of them, may not be short of 
ten thousand t. And in this vast variety of animal 
forms (for the observation is not confined to insects, 
though more applicable perhaps to them than to any 
other class), we are sometimes led to take notice of the 
different methods, or rather of the studiously diversified 
methods, by which one and the same purpose is attained. 
In the article of breathing, for example, which was to 
be provided for in some way or other, besides the ordi- 
nary varieties of lungs, gills, and breathing-holes (for 
insects in general respire, not by the mouth, but through 
holes in the sides), the nymphae of gnats have an appa- 
ratus to raise their hacks to the top of the water, and 
so take breath. The hydrocanthari do the like by 
thrusting their tails out of the water t. The maggot 
of the eruca labra has a long tail, one part sheathed 
within another (but which it can draw out at pleasure), 
with a starry tuft at the end, by which tuft, when ex- 
panded upon the surface, the insect both supports itself 
in the water, and draws in the air which is necessary. 
In the article of natural clothing, we have the skins of 
animals, invested with scales, hair, feathers, mucus, 
froth ; or itself turned into a shell or crust : in the no 
less necessary article of offence and defence, we have 
teeth, talons, beaks, horns, stings, prickles, with (the 
most singular expedient for the same purpose) the 
power of giving the electric shock, and, as is credibly 
related of some animals, of driving away their pursuers 
* Vol. i. p. 3. f Wisd. of God, p. 23. % Derham, p. 7- 


by an intolerable foetor, or of blackening the water 
through which they are pursued. The consideration 
of these appearances might induce us to believe, that 
variety itself, distinct from every other reason, was a 
motive in the mind of the Creator, or with the agents 
of his will. 

To this great variety in organised life, the Deity has 
given, or perhaps there arises out of it, a corresponding 
variety of animal appetites. For the final cause of 
this, we have not far to seek. Did all animals covet 
the same element, retreat, or food, it is evident how 
much fewer could be supplied and accommodated, than 
what at present live conveniently together, and find a 
plentiful subsistence. What one nature rejects, another 
delights in. Food which is nauseous to one tribe of 
animals, becomes, by that very property which makes it 
nauseous, an alluring dainty to another tribe. Carrion 
is a treat to dogs, ravens, vultures, fish. The exhala- 
tions of corrupted substances attract flies by crowds. 
Maggots revel in putrefaction. 



I think a designed and studied mechanism to be, in 
general, more evident in animals than in plants: and 
it is unnecessary to dwell upon a weaker argument, 
where a stronger is at hand. There are, however, a 
few observations upon the vegetable kingdom, which 
lie so directly in our way, that it would be improper to 
pass by them without notice. 

The one great intention of nature in the structure of 


plants, seems to be the perfecting of the seed; and, 
what is part of the same intention, the preserving of it 
until it be perfected. This intention shows itself, in 
the first place, by the care which appears to be taken, 
to protect and ripen, by every advantage which can be 
given to them of situation in the plant, those parts 
which most immediately contribute to fructification, viz. 
the antherae, the stamina, and the stigmata. These 
parts are usually lodged in the centre, the recesses, or 
the labyrinths of the flower ; during their tender and 
immature state, are shut up in the stalk, or sheltered 
in the bud ; as soon as they have acquired firmness of 
texture sufficient to bear exposure, and are ready to 
perform the important office which is assigned to them, 
they are disclosed to the light and air, by the bursting 
of the stem, or the expansion of the petals ; after which, 
they have, in many cases, by the very form of the 
flower during its blow, the light and warmth reflected 
upon them from the concave side of the cup. What is 
called also the sleep of plants, is the leaves or petals 
disposing themselves in such a manner as to shelter the 
young stems, buds, or fruit. They turn up, or they 
fall down, according as this purpose renders either 
change of position requisite. In the growth of corn, 
whenever the plant begins to shoot, the two upper 
leaves of the stalk join together, embrace the ear, and 
protect it till the pulp has acquired a certain degree of 
consistency. In some water-plants, the flowering and 
fecundation are carried on within the stem, which after- 
wards opens to let loose the impregnated seed*. The 
pea or papilionaceous tribe, enclose the parts of fructifi- 
cation within a beautiful folding of the internal blossom, 

* Philos. Transact, part ii. 1796, p. 502. 


sometimes called, from its shape, the boat or keel; 
itself also protected under a penthouse formed by the 
external petals. This structure is very artificial; and 
what adds to the value of it, though it may diminish 
the curiosity, very general. It has also this farther 
advantage (and it is an advantage strictly mechanical), 
that all the blossoms turn their backs to the wind, 
whenever the gale blows strong enough to endanger 
the delicate parts upon which the seed depends. I 
have observed this a hundred times in a field of peas in 
blossom. It is an aptitude which results from the 
figure of the flower, and, as we have said, is strictly 
mechanical ; as much so, as the turning of a weather- 
board or tin cap upon the top of a chimney. Of the 
poppy, and of many similar species of flowers, the head, 
while it is growing, hangs down, a rigid curvature in 
the upper part of the stem giving to it that position : 
and in that position it is impenetrable by rain or 
moisture. When the head has acquired its size, and is 
ready to open, the stalk erects itself, for the purpose, 
as it should seem, of presenting the flower, and with 
the flower, the instruments of fructification, to the 
genial influence of the sun's rays. This always struck 
me as a curious property; and specifically, as well as 
originally, provided for in the constitution of the-plant : 
for, if the stem be only bent by the weight of the head, 
how comes it to straighten itself when the head is the 
heaviest? These instances show the attention of nature 
to this principal object, the safety and maturation of 
the parts upon which the seed depends. 

In trees, especially in those which are natives of 
colder climates, this point is taken up earlier. Many 
of these trees (observe in particular the ask and the 
horse-chestnut) produce the embryos of the leaves and 


flowers in one year, and bring them to perfection the 
following. There is a winter therefore to be gotten 
over. Now what we are to remark is, how nature has 
prepared for the trials and severities of that season. 
These tender embryos are, in the first place, wrapped 
up with a compactness, which no art can imitate; in 
which state, they compose what we call the bud. This 
is not all. The bud itself is enclosed in scales ; which 
scales are formed from the remains of past leaves, and 
the rudiments of future ones. Neither is this the 
whole. In the coldest climates, a third preservative is 
added, by the bud having a coat of gum or resin, 
which, being congealed, resists the strongest frosts. 
On the approach of warm weather, this gum is 
softened, and ceases to be an hinderance to the 
expansion of the leaves and flowers. All this care is 
part of that system of provisions which has for its 
object and consummation, the production and per- 
fecting of the seeds. 

The seeds themselves are packed up in a capsule, a 
vessel composed of coats, which, compared with the 
rest of the flower, are strong and tough. From this 
vessel projects a tube, through which tube the farina, 
or some subtile fecundating effluvium that issues from 
it, is admitted to the seed. And here also occurs a 
mechanical variety, accommodated to the different cir- 
cumstances under which the same purpose is to be 
accomplished. In flowers which are erect, the pistil is 
shorter than the stamina; and the pollen, shed from 
the antherae into the cup of the flower, is caught, in its 
descent, by the head of the pistil, called the stigma. 
But how is this managed when the flowers hang down 
(as does the crown-imperial for instance), and in which 
position, the farina, in its fall, would be carried from 

e2 ' 


the stigma, and not towards it? The relative length of 
the parts is now inverted. The pistil in these flowers 
is usually longer, instead of shorter, than the stamina, 
that its protruding summit may receive the pollen as it 
drops to the ground. In some cases (as in the nigella), 
where the shafts of the pistils or stiles are dispropor- 
tionate long, they bend down their extremities upon 
the antherae, that the necessary approximation may 
be effected. 

But (to pursue this great work in its progress), the 
impregnation, to which all this machinery relates, 
being completed, the other parts of the flower fade and 
drop off, whilst the gravid seed-vessel, on the contrary, 
proceeds to increase its bulk, always to a great, and in 
some species (in the gourd, for example, and melon), 
to a surprising comparative size ; assuming in different 
plants an incalculable variety of forms, but all evidently 
conducing to the security of the seed. By virtue of 
this process, so necessary, but so diversified, we have 
the seed, at length, in stone-fruits and nuts, incased in 
a strong shell, the shell itself enclosed in a pulp or 
husk, by which the seed within is, or hath been, fed; 
or, more generally (as in grapes, oranges, and the 
numerous kinds of berries), plunged overhead in a 
glutinous syrup, contained within a skin or bladder: at 
other times (as in apples and pears) embedded in the 
heart of a firm fleshy substance ; or (as in strawberries) 
pricked into the surface of a soft pulp. 

These and many more varieties exist in what we call 
fruits*. In pulse, and grain, and grasses; in trees, 

* From the conformation of fruits alone, one might be led, even 
without experience, to suppose, that part of this provision was 
destined for the utilities of animals. As limited to the plant, the 
provision itself seems to go beyond its object. The flesh of an 


and shrubs, and flowers ; the variety of the seed-vessels 
is incomputable. We have the seeds (as in the pea 
tribe) regularly disposed in parchment pods, which, 
though soft and membranous, completely exclude the 
wet even in the heaviest rains; the pod also, not 
seldom (as in the bean), lined with a fine down; at 
other times (as in the senna) distended like a blown 
bladder: or we have the seed enveloped in wool (as in 
the cotton-plant), lodged (as in pines) between the 
hard and compact scales of a cone, or barricadoed (as 

apple, the pulp of an orange, the meat of a plum, the fatness of the 
olive, appear to be more than sufficient for the nourishing of the seed 
or kernel. The event shows, that this redundancy, if it be one, 
ministers to the support and gratification of animal natures ; and 
when we observe a provision to be more than sufficient for one 
purpose, yet wanted for another purpose, it is not unfair to conclude 
that both purposes were contemplated together. It favours this 
view of the subject to remark, that fruits are not (which they might 
have been) ready altogether, but that they ripen in succession 
throughout a great part of the year; some in summer; some in 
autumn; that some require the slow maturation of the winter, and 
supply the spring; also that the coldest fruits grow in the hottest 
places. Cucumbers, pine-apples, melons, are the natural produce of 
warm climates, and contribute greatly, by their coolness, to the 
refreshment of the inhabitants of those countries. 

I will add to this note the following observation communicated to 
me by Mr. Brinkley. 

" The eatable part of the cherry or peach first serves the purposes 
of perfecting the seed or kernel, by means of vessels passing through 
the stone, and which are very visible in a peach-stone. After the 
kernel is perfected, the stone becomes hard, and the vessels cease 
their functions. But the substance surrounding the stone is not 
then thrown away as useless. That which was before only an in- 
strument for perfecting the kernel, now receives and retains to 
itself the whole of the sun's influence, and thereby becomes a 
grateful food to man. Also what an evident mark of design is the 
stone protecting the kernel ! The intervention of the stone prevents 
the second use from interfering with the first." 


in the artichoke and thistle) with spikes and prickles ' T 
in mushrooms, placed under a penthouse; in ferns, 
within slits in the back part of the leaf: or (which is 
the most general organisation of all) we find them 
covered by strong, close tunicles, and attached to the 
stem according to an order appropriated to each plant, 
as is seen in the several kinds of grains and of grasses. 

In which enumeration, what we have first to notice 
is, unity of purpose under variety of expedients. Nothing 
can be more single than the design; more diversified 
than the means. Pellicles, shells, pulps, pods, husks, 
skin, scales armed with thorns, are all employed in pro- 
secuting the same intention. Secondly; we may ob- 
serve, that in all these cases, the purpose is fulfilled 
within a just and limited degree. We can perceive, 
that if the seeds of plants were more strongly guarded 
than they are, their greater security would interfere 
with other uses. Many species of animals would suffer, 
and many perish, if they could not obtain access to 
them. The plant would overrun the soil; or the seed 
be wasted for want of room to sow itself. It is, some- 
times, as necessary to destroy particular species of 
plants, as it is, at other times, to encourage their 
growth. Here, as in many cases, a balance is to be 
maintained between opposite uses. The provisions 
for the preservation of seeds appear to be directed, 
chiefly against the inconstancy of the elements, or the 
sweeping destruction of inclement seasons. The de- 
predation of animals, and the injuries of accidental 
violence, are allowed for in the abundance of the in- 
crease. The result is, that out of the many thousand 
different plants which cover the earth, not a single 
species, perhaps, has been lost since the creation. 

When nature has perfected her seeds, v her next care 


is to disperse them. The seed cannot answer its pur- 
pose, while it remains confined in the capsule. After 
the seeds therefore are ripened, the pericarpium opens 
to let them out ; and the opening is not like an acci- 
dental bursting, but, for the most part, is according to 
a certain rule in each plant. What I have always 
thought very extraordinary; nuts and shells, which We 
can hardly crack with our teeth, divide and make way 
for the little tender sprout which proceeds from the 
kernel. Handling the nut, I could hardly conceive 
how the plantule was ever to get out of it. There are 
cases, it is said, in which the seed-vessel by an elastic 
jerk, at the moment of its explosion, casts the seeds to 
a distance. We all however know, that many seeds 
(those of most composite flowers, as of the thistle, dan- 
delion, &c.) are endowed with what are not improperly 
called wings; that is, downy appendages, by which 
they are enabled to float in the air, and are carried 
oftentimes by the wind to great distances from the 
plant which produces them. It is the swelling also of 
this downy tuft within the seed-vessel, that seems to 
overcome the resistance of its coats, and to open a 
passage for the seed to escape. 

But the constitution of seeds is still more admirable 
than either their preservation or their dispersion. In 
the body of the seed of every species of plant, or nearly 
of every one, provision is made for two grand pur- 
poses: first, for the safety of the germ; secondly, for 
the temporary support of the future plant. The sprout, 
as folded up in the seed, is delicate and brittle beyond 
any other substance. It cannot be touched without 
being broken. Yet, in beans, peas, grass-seeds, grain, 
fruits, it is so fenced on all sides, so shut up and pro- 
tected, that, whilst the seed itself is rudely handled, 


tossed into sacks, shovelled into heaps, the sacred par- 
ticle, the miniature plant, remains unhurt. It is won- 
derful also, how long many kinds of seeds, by the help 
of their integuments, and perhaps of their oils, stand 
out against decay. A grain of mustard-seed has been 
known to lie in the earth for a hundred years; and, as 
soon as it had acquired a favourable situation, to shoot 
as vigorously as if just gathered from the plant. Then, 
as to the second point, the temporary support of the 
future plant, the matter stands thus. In grain, and 
pulse, and kernels, and pippins, the germ composes a 
very small part of the seed. The rest consists of a 
nutritious substance, from which the sprout draws its 
aliment for some considerable time after it is put forth ; 
viz. until the fibres, shot out from the other end of the 
seed, are able to imbibe juices from the earth, in a suf- 
ficient quantity for its demand. It is owing to this 
constitution, that we see seeds sprout, and the sprouts 
make a considerable progress, without any earth at all. 
It is an ceconomy also, in which we remark a close 
analogy between the seeds of plants and the eggs of 
animals. The same point is provided for, in the same 
manner, in both. In the egg, the residence of the 
living principle, the cicatrix, forms a very minute part 
of the contents. The white and the white only is 
expended in the formation of the chicken. The yolk, 
very little altered or diminished, is wrapped up in the 
abdomen of the young bird, when it quits the shell; 
and serves for its nourishment, till it have learnt to 
pick its own food. This perfectly resembles the first 
nutrition of a plant. In the plant, as well as in the 
animal, the structure has every character of contrivance 
belonging to it: in both it breaks the transition from 
prepared to unprepared aliment; in both, it is pro- 


spective and compensatory. In animals which suck, 
this intermediate nourishment is supplied by a different 

In all subjects, the most common observations are 
the best, when it is their truth and strength which have 
made them common. There are, of this sort, two con- 
cerning plants, which it falls within our plan to notice. 
The first relates to, what has already been touched 
upon, their germination. When a grain of corn is cast 
into the ground, this is the change which takes place. 
From one end of the grain issues a green sprout ; from 
the other, a number of white fibrous threads. How 
can this be explained? Why not sprouts from both 
ends? why not fibrous threads from both ends? To 
what is the difference to be referred, but to design ; to 
the different uses which the parts are thereafter to 
serve; uses which discover themselves in the sequel of 
the process? The sprout, or plumule, struggles into 
the air; and becomes the plant, of which, from the 
first, it contained the rudiments: the fibres shoot into 
the earth; and, thereby, both fix the plant to the 
ground, and collect nourishment from the soil for its 
support. Now, what is not a little remarkable, the 
parts issuing from the seed take their respective direc- 
tions, into whatever position the seed itself happens to 
be cast. If the seed be thrown into the wrongest pos- 
sible position ; that is, if the ends point in the ground 
the reverse of what they ought to do, every thing, 
nevertheless, goes on right. The sprout, after being 
pushed down a little way, makes a bend, and turns 
upwards; the fibres, on the contrary, after shooting at 
first upwards, turn down. Of this extraordinary ve- 
getable fact, an account has lately been attempted to 
be given. " The plumule (it is said) is stimulated by 


the air into action, and elongates itself when it is thus 
most excited; the radicle is stimulated by moisture, 
and elongates itself when it is thus most excited. 
Whence one of these grows upward in quest of its 
adapted object, and the other downward*." Were 
this account better verified by experiment than it is, it 
only shifts the contrivance. It does not disprove the 
contrivance; it only removes it a little farther back. 
Who, to use our author's own language, " adapted the 
objects?" Who gave such a quality to these connate 
parts, as to be susceptible of different " stimulation ;" as 
to be " excited" each only by its own element, and pre- 
cisely by that which the success of the vegetation re- 
quires? I say, "which the success of the vegetation 
requires :" for the toil of the husbandman would have 
been in vain; his laborious and expensive preparation 
of the ground in vain; if the event must, after all, 
depend upon the position in which the scattered seed 
was sown. Not one seed out of a hundred would fall 
in a right direction. 

Our second observation is upon a general property 
of climbing plants, which is strictly mechanical. In 
these plants, from each knot or joint, or, as botanists 
call it, axilla, of the plant, issue, close to each other, 
two shoots; one bearing the flower and fruit; the 
other, drawn out into a wire, a long, tapering, spiral 
tendril, that twists itself round any thing which lies 
within its reach. Considering, that in this class two 
purposes are to be provided for (and together), fruc- 
tification and support, the fruitage of the plant, and the 
sustentation of the stalk, what means could be used 
more effectual, or, as I have said, more mechanical, than 
what this structure presents to our eyes ? Why, or how, 
* Darwin's Phytologia, p. 144, 


without a view to this double purpose, do two shoots, 
of such different and appropriate forms, spring from 
the same joint, from contiguous points of the same 
stalk? It never happens thus in robust plants, or in 
trees. " We see not (says Ray) so much as one tree, 
or shrub, or herb, that hath a firm and strong stem, and 
that is able to mount up and stand alone without assist- 
ance, furnished with these tendrils? Make only so 
simple a comparison as that between a pea and a bean. 
Why does the pea put forth tendrils, the bean not ; but 
because the stalk of the pea cannot support itself, the 
stalk of the bean can ? We may add also, as a circum- 
stance not to be overlooked, that in the pea tribe, these 
clasps do not make their appearance till they are wanted ; 
till the plant has grown to a height to stand in need of 

This word " support" suggests to us a reflection 
upon a property of grasses, of corn, and canes. The 
hollow stems of these classes of plants are set, at certain 
intervals, with joints. These joints are not found in 
the trunks of trees, or in the solid stalks of plants. 
There may be other uses of these joints ; but the fact 
is, and it appears to be, at least, one purpose designed 
by them, that they corroborate the stem ; which, by its 
length and hollowness, would otherwise be too liable 
to break or bend. 

Grasses are Nature's care. With these she clothes 
the earth ; with these she sustains its inhabitants* 
Cattle feed upon their leaves; birds upon their smaller 
seeds ; men upon the larger : for, few readers need be 
told that the plants, which produce our bread-corn, 
belong to this class. In those tribes which are more 
generally considered as grasses, their extraordinary 
means and powers of preservation and increase, their 


hardiness, their almost unconquerable disposition to 
spread, their faculties of reviviscence, coincide with the 
intention of nature concerning them. They thrive 
under a treatment by which other plants are destroyed. 
The more their leaves are consumed, the more their 
roots increase. The more they are trampled upon, the 
thicker they grow. Many of the seemingly dry and 
dead leaves of grasses revive, and renew their verdure 
in the spring. In lofty mountains, where the summer 
heats are not sufficient to ripen the seeds, grasses abound 
which are viviparous, and consequently able to pro- 
pagate themselves without seed. It is an observation, 
likewise, which has often been made, that herbivorous 
animals attach themselves to the leaves of grasses; and, 
if at liberty in their pastures to range and choose, leave 
untouched the straws which support the flowers*. 

The general properties of vegetable nature, or pro- 
perties common to large portions of that kingdom, are 
almost all which the compass of our argument allows to 
bring forward. It is impossible to follow plants into 
their several species. We may be allowed, however, to 
single out three or four of these species as worthy of a 
particular notice, either by some singular mechanism, 
or by some peculiar provision, or by both. 

I. In Dr. Darwin's Botanic Garden (1. 395, note), 
is the following account of the vallisneria, as it has 
been observed in the river Rhone. — " They have roots 
at the bottom of the Rhone. The flowers of the fe- 
male plant float on the surface of the water, and are 
furnished with an elastic, spiral stalk, which extends or 
contracts as the water rises or falls ; this rise or fall, from 
the torrents which flow into the river, often amounting 
to many feet in a few hours. The flowers of the male 
* Withering, Bot. Arr. vol. i. p. 28, ed. 2d. 


plant are produced under water ; and, as soon as the 
fecundating farina is mature, they separate themselves 
from the plant ; rise to the surface ; and are wafted by 
the air, or borne by the currents, to the female flowers." 
Our attention in this narrative will be directed to two 
particulars : first, to the mechanism, the " elastic, spiral 
stalk," which lengthens or contracts itself according as 
the water rises or falls ; secondly, to the provision which 
is made for bringing the male flower, which is produced 
under water, to the female flower which floats upon 
the surface. 

II. My second example I take from Withering's 
Arrangement, vol. ii. p. 209, ed. 3. " The cuscuta 
europcea is a parasitical plant. The seed opens, and 
puts forth a little spiral body, which does not seek the 
earth, to take root; but climbs in a spiral direction, 
from right to left, up other plants, from which, by means 
of vessels, it draws its nourishment." The " little spiral 
body" proceeding from the seed, is to be compared 
with the fibres which seeds send out in ordinary cases : 
and the comparison ought to regard both the form of the 
threads and the direction. They are straight; this is 
spiral. They shoot downwards; this points upwards. In 
the rule, and in the exception, we equally perceive design. 

III. A better known parasitical plant is the ever- 
green shrub, called the misseltoe. What we have to 
remark in it, is a singular instance of compensation. 
No art hath yet made these plants take root in the 
earth. Here therefore might seem to be a mortal de- 
fect in their constitution. Let us examine how this 
defect is made up to them. The seeds are endued with 
an adhesive quality so tenacious, that, if they be rubbed 
upon the smooth bark of almost any tree, they will stick 
to it. And then what follows? Roots springing from 


these seeds, insinuate their fibres into the woody sub- 
stance of the tree ; and the event is, that a misseltoe 
plant is produced next winter*. Of no other plant 
do the roots refuse to shoot in the ground ; of no other 
plant do the seeds possess this adhesive, generative qua- 
lity, when applied to the bark of trees. 

IV. Another instance of the compensatory system is 
in the autumnal crocus, or meadow saffron (colchicum 
autumnale). I have pitied this poor plant a thousand 
times. Its blossom rises out of the ground in the most 
forlorn condition possible ; without a sheath ? a fence, a 
calyx, or even a leaf to protect it : and that, not in the 
spring, not to be visited by summer suns, but under all 
the disadvantages of the declining year. When we 
come, however, to look more closely into the structure 
of this plant, we find that, instead of its being neg- 
lected, Nature has gone out of her course to provide 
for its security, and to make up to it for all its defects. 
The seed-vessel, which in other plants is situated within 
the cup of the flower, or just beneath it, in this plant 
lies buried ten or twelve inches under ground within the 
bulbous root. The tube of the flower, which is seldom 
more than a few tenths of an inch long, in this plant 
extends down to the root. The stiles in all cases reach 
the seed-vessel; but it is in this, by an elongation un- 
known to any other plant. All these singularities con- 
tribute to one end. " As this plant blossoms late in 
the year, and probably would not have time to ripen 
its seeds before the access of winter, which would destroy 
them ; Providence has contrived its structure such, that 
this important office may be performed at a depth in the 
earth out of reach of the usual effects of frost t." That 

* Withering, Bot. Arr. vol. i. p. 203, ed. 2d. 
f Withering, ubi supra, p. 360. 


is to say, in the autumn nothing is done above ground 
but the business of impregnation; which is an affair 
between the antherae and the stigmata, and is probably 
soon over. The maturation of the impregnated seed, 
which in other plants proceeds within a capsule, ex- 
posed together with the rest of the flower to the open 
air, is here carried on, and during the whole winter, 
within the heart, as we may say, of the earth, that is, 
" out of the reach of the usual effects of frost." But 
then a new difficulty presents itself. Seeds, though 
perfected, are known not to vegetate at this depth in 
the earth. Our seeds, therefore, though so safely 
lodged, would, after all, be lost to the purpose for 
which all seeds are intended. Lest this should be the 
case, " a second admirable provision is made to raise 
them above the surface when they are perfected, and 
to sow them at a proper distance :" viz. the germ grows 
up in the spring, upon a fruit-stalk, accompanied with 
leaves. The seeds now, in common with those of other 
plants, have the benefit of the summer, and are sown 
upon the surface. The order of vegetation externally 
is this: — the plant produces its flowers in September; 
its leaves and fruits in the spring following. 

V. I give the account of the dioncea muscipula, an 
extraordinary American plant, as some late authors 
have related it: but whether we be yet enough ac- 
quainted with the plant, to bring every part of this 
account to the test of repeated and familiar observation, 
I am unable to say. " Its leaves are jointed, and fur- 
nished with two rows of strong prickles ; their surfaces 
covered with a number of minute glands, which secrete 
a sweet liquor that allures the approach of flies. When 
these parts are touched by the legs of flies, the two 
lobes of the leaf instantly spring up, the rows of prickles 


lock themselves fast together, and squeeze the unwary 
animal to death ?.*? Here, under a new model, we 
recognise the ancient plan of nature, viz. the relation 
of parts and provisions to one another, to a common 
office, and to the utility of the organised body to which 
they belong. The attracting syrup, the rows of strong 
prickles, their position so as to interlock, the joints of 
the leaves ; and, what is more than the rest, that sin- 
gular irritability of their surfaces, by which they close 
at a touch ; all bear a contributory part in producing an 
effect, connected either with the defence or with the 
nutrition of the plant. 



When we come to the elements, we take leave of our 
mechanics; because we come to those things, of the 
organisation of which, if they be organised, we are con- 
fessedly ignorant. This ignorance is implied by their 
name. To say the truth, our investigations are stopped 
long before we arrive at this point. But then it is for 
our comfort to find, that a knowledge of the constitution 
of the elements is not necessary for us. For instance, 
as Addison has well observed, " we know water suf- 
ficiently, when we know how to boil, how to freeze, 
how to evaporate, how to make it fresh, how to make 
it run or spout out, in what quantity and direction we 
please, without knowing what water is." The observa- 
tion of this excellent writer has more propriety in it 
now, than it had at the time it was made: for the con- 

* Smellie's Phil, of Nat. Hist. vol. i. p. 5. 


stitution, and the constituent parts, of water, appear in 
some measure to have been lately discovered; yet it 
does not, I think, appear, that we can make any better 
or greater use of water since the discovery, than we 
did before it. 

We can never think of the elements, without re- 
flecting upon the number of distinct uses which are 
consolidated in the same substance. The air supplies 
the lungs, supports fire, conveys sound, reflects light, 
diffuses smells, gives rain, wafts ships, bears up birds. 
'Eg uSaro? rx itavta: water, besides maintaining its own 
inhabitants, is the universal nourisher of plants, and 
through them of terrestrial animals; is the basis of their 
juices and fluids ; dilutes their food ; quenches their 
thirst; floats their burdens. Fire warms, dissolves, 
enlightens: is the great promoter of vegetation and life, 
if not necessary to the support of both. 

We might enlarge, to almost any length we please, 
upon each of these uses: but it appears to me almost 
sufficient to state them. The few remarks, which I 
judge it necessary to add, are as follow : 

I. Air is essentially different from earth. There ap- 
pears to be no necessity for an atmosphere's investing 
our globe; yet it does invest it: and we see how many, 
how various, and how important are the purposes 
which it answers to every order of animated, not to say 
of organised, beings, which are placed upon the ter- 
restrial surface. I think that every one of these uses 
will be understood upon the first mention of them, 
except it be that of reflecting light, which may be ex- 
plained thus: — If I had the power of seeing only by 
means of rays coming directly from the sun, whenever 
I turned my back upon the luminary, I should find my- 

VOL. iv. s 


self in darkness. If I had the power of seeing by re- 
flected light, yet by means only of light reflected from 
solid masses, these masses would shine indeed, and 
glisten, but it would be in the dark. The hemisphere, 
the sky, the world, could only be illuminated, as it is 
illuminated, by the light of the sun being from all 
sides, and in every direction, reflected to the eye, by 
particles, as numerous, as thickly scattered, and as 
widely diffused, as are those of the air. 

Another general quality of the atmosphere is the 
power of evaporating fluids. The adjustment of this 
quality to our use is seen in its action upon the sea. 
In the sea, water and salt are mixed together most in- 
timately; yet the atmosphere raises the water, and 
leaves the salt. Pure and fresh as drops of rain 
descend, they are collected from brine. If evaporation 
be solution (which seems to be probable) then the air 
dissolves the water, and not the salt. Upon whatever 
it be founded, the distinction is critical ; so much so, 
that when we attempt to imitate the process by art, we 
must regulate our distillation with great care and nicety, 
or, together with the water, we get the bitterness, or, 
at least, the distastefulness, of the marine substance: 
and, after all, it is owing to this original elective power 
in the air, that we can effect the separation which we 
wish, by any art or means whatever. 

By evaporation, water is carried up into the air; by 
the converse of evaporation, it falls down upon the 
earth. And how does it fall ? Not by the clouds being 
all at once re-converted into water, and descending like 
a sheet ; not in rushing down in columns from a spout ; 
but in moderate drops, as from a colander. Our 
watering-pots are made to imitate showers of rain. 


Yet, a priori, I should have thought either of the two 
former methods more likely to have taken place than 
the last. 

By respiration, flame, putrefaction, air is rendered 
unfit for the support of animal life. By the constant 
operation of these corrupting principles, the whole at- 
mosphere, if there were no restoring causes, would 
come at length to be deprived of its necessary degree 
of purity. Some of these causes seem to have been 
discovered, and their efficacy ascertained by experiment. 
And so far as the discovery has proceeded, it opens to 
us a beautiful and a wonderful ceconomy. Vegetation 
proves to be one of them. A sprig of mint, corked up 
with a small portion of foul air, placed in the light, 
renders it again capable of supporting life or flame. 
Here, therefore, is a constant circulation of benefits 
maintained between the two great provinces of orga- 
nised nature. The plant purifies what the animal has 
poisoned ; in return, the contaminated air is more than 
ordinarily nutritious to the plant. Agitation with water 
turns out to be another of these restoratives. The 
foulest air, shaken in a bottle with water for a sufficient 
length of time, recovers a great degree of its purity. 
Here then again, allowing for the scale upon which 
nature works, we see the salutary effects of storms and 
tempests. The yesty waves which confound the heaven 
and the sea, are doing the very thing which was done 
in the bottle. Nothing can be of greater importance 
to the living creation, than the salubrity of their atmo- 
sphere. It ought to reconcile us therefore to these 
agitations of the elements, of which we sometimes 
deplore the consequences, to know that they tend 
powerfully to restore to the air that purity, which so 
many causes are constantly impairing. 

s 2 


II. In Water, what ought not a little to be admired, 
are those negative qualities which constitute its purity. 
Had it been vinous, or oleaginous, or acid; had the sea 
been filled, or the rivers flowed, with wine or milk; 
fish, constituted as they are, must have died: plants, 
constituted as they are, would have withered: the lives 
of animals which feed upon plants must have perished. 
Its very insipidity, which is one of those negative 
qualities, renders it the best of all menstrua. Having 
no taste of its own, it becomes the sincere vehicle of 
every other. Had there been a taste in water, be it 
what it might, it would have infected every thing we 
ate or drank, with an importunate repetition of the 
same flavour. 

Another thing in this element, not less to be ad- 
mired, is the constant round which it travels ; and by 
which, without suffering either adulteration or waste, 
it is continually offering itself to the wants of the ha- 
bitable globe. From the sea are exhaled those vapours 
which form the clouds : these clouds descend in showers, 
which, penetrating into the crevices of the hills, supply 
springs; which springs flow in little streams into the 
valleys; and there uniting, become rivers; which 
rivers, in return, feed the ocean. So there is an in- 
cessant circulation of the same fluid : and not one 
drop probably more or less now than there was at the 
creation. A particle of water takes its departure from 
the surface of the sea, in order to fulfil certain im- 
•portant offices to the earth ; and having executed the 
service which was assigned to it, returns to the bosom 
which it left. 

Some have thought, that we have too much water 
upon the globe, the sea occupying above three-quarters 
of its whole surface. But the expanse of ocean, im- 


mense as it is, may be no more than sufficient to 
fertilize the earth. Or, independently of this reason, 
I know not why the sea may not have as good a right 
to its place as the land. It may proportionably sup- 
port as many inhabitants; minister to as large an 
aggregate of enjoyment. The land only affords a ha- 
bitable surface; the sea is habitable to a great depth. 

III. Of Fire, we have said that it dissolves. The 
only idea probably which this term raised in the reader's 
mind, was that of fire melting metals, resins, and some 
other substances, fluxing ores, running glass, and as- 
sisting us in many of our operations, chymical or 
culinary. Now these are only uses of an occasional 
kind, and give us a very imperfect notion of what fire 
does for us. The grand importance of this dissolving 
power, the great office indeed of 'fire in the ceconomy 
of nature, is keeping things in a state of solution, that 
is to say, in a state of fluidity. Were it not for the 
presence of heat, or of a certain degree of it, all fluids 
would be frozen. The ocean itself would be a quarry 
of ice ; universal nature stiff and dead. 

We see, therefore, that the elements bear not only a 
strict relation to the constitution of organised bodies, 
but a relation to each other. Water could not perform 
its office to the earth without air; nor exist, as water, 
without fire. 

IV. Of Light (whether we regard it as of the same 
substance with fire, or as a different substance) it is 
altogether superfluous to expatiate upon the use. No 
man disputes it. The observations, therefore, which I 
shall offer, respect that little which we seem to know 
of its constitution. 

Light travels from the sun at the rate of twelve 
millions of miles in a minute. Urged bv such a ve- 


locity, with what force must its particles drive against 
(I will not say the eye, the tenderest of animal sub- 
stances, but) every substance, animate or inanimate, 
which stands in its way! It might seem to be a force 
sufficient to shatter to atoms the hardest bodies. 

How then is this effect, the consequence of such 
prodigious velocity, guarded against? By a proportion- 
able minuteness of the particles of which light is com- 
posed. It is impossible for the human mind to imagine 
to itself any thing so small as a particle of light. But 
this extreme exility, though difficult to conceive, it is 
easy to prove. A drop of tallow, expended in the 
wick of a farthing candle, shall send forth rays sufficient 
to fill a hemisphere of a mile diameter; and to fill it so 
full of these rays, that an aperture not larger than the 
pupil of an eye, wherever it be placed within the hemi- 
sphere, shall be sure to receive some of them. What 
floods of light are continually poured from the sun, we 
cannot estimate; but the immensity of the sphere 
which is filled with particles, even if it reached no 
farther than the orbit of the earth, we can in some 
sort compute; and we have reason to believe, that, 
throughout this whole region, the particles of light lie, 
in latitude at least, near to one another. The spis- 
situde of the sun's rays at the earth is such, that the 
number which falls upon a burning-glass of an inch 
diameter, is sufficient, when concentrated, to set wood 
on fire. 

The tenuity and the velocity of particles of light, as 
ascertained by separate observations, may be said to be 
proportioned to each other; both surpassing our utmost 
stretch of comprehension ; but proportioned. And it 
is this proportion alone, which converts a tremendous 
element into a welcome visitor. 


It has been observed to me by a learned friend, as 
having often struck his mind, that, if light had been 
made by a common artist, it would have been of one 
uniform colour: whereas, by its present composition, 
we have that variety of colours, which is of such infinite 
use to us for the distinguishing of objects ; which adds 
so much to the beauty of the earth, and augments the 
stock of our innocent pleasures. 

With which may be joined another reflection, vi%, 
that, considering light as compounded of rays of seven 
different colours (of which there can be no doubt, 
because it can be resolved into these rays by simply 
passing it through a prism), the constituent parts must 
be well mixed and blended together, to produce a fluid 
so clear and colourless, as a beam of light is, when 
received from the sun. 



My opinion of Astronomy has always been that it is 
not the best medium through which to prove the agency 
of an intelligent Creator ; but that, this being proved, 
it shows, beyond all other sciences, the magnificence of 
his operations. The mind which is once convinced, it 
raises to sublimer views of the Deity than any other 
subject affords; but it is not so well adapted, as some 

* For the articles of this chapter marked with an asterisk, I am 
indebted to some obliging communications received (through the 
hands of the Lord Bishop of Elphin) from the Rev. J. Brinkley, 
M. A., Andrew's Professor of Astronomy in the University of 


^ V other subjects are, to the purpose of argument. We 
are destitute of the means of examining the constitution 
of the heavenly bodies. The very simplicity of their 
appearance is against them. We see nothing, but 
bright points, luminous circles, or the phases of spheres 
reflecting the light which falls upon them. [Now we 
deduce design from relation, aptitude, and corre- 
spondence of parts7\ Some degree therefore of com- 
plexity is necessary to render a subject fit for this 
species of argument. But the heavenly bodies do not, 
except perhaps in the instance of Saturn's ring, present 
themselves to our observation as compounded of parts 
at all. This, which may be a perfection in them, is a 
disadvantage to us, as inquirers after their nature. 
They do not come within our mechanics. 

And what we say of their forms, is true of their 
motions. \Their motions are carried on without any 
sensible intermediate apparatus; whereby we are cut 
off from one principal ground of argumentation, ana- 
logy. We have nothing wherewith to compare them ; 
no invention, no discovery, no operation or resource of 
art, which, in this respect, resembles them.^ Even 
those things which are made to imitate and represent 
them, such as orreries, planetaria, celestial globes, &c. 
bear no affinity to them, in the cause and principle by 
which their motions are actuated. I can assign for 
this difference a reason of utility, viz. a reason why, 
though the action of terrestrial bodies upon each other 
be, in almost all cases, through the intervention of 
solid or fluid substances, yet central attraction does not 
operate in this manner. It was necessary that the in- 
tervals between the planetary orbs should be devoid of 
any inert matter either fluid or solid, because such an 
intervening substance would, by its resistance, destroy 


those very motions, which attraction is employed to 
preserve. This may be a final cause of the difference; 
but still the difference destroys the analogy. 

Our ignorance, moreover, of the sensitive natures, 
by which other planets are inhabited, necessarily keeps 
from us the knowledge of numberless utilities, re- 
lations, and subserviencies, which we perceive upon our 
own globe. 

After all ; the real subject of admiration is, that we 
understand so much of astronomy as we do. That an 
animal confined to the surface of one of the planets ; 
bearing a less proportion to it than the smallest mi- 
croscopic insect does to the plant it lives upon; that 
this little, busy, inquisitive creature, by the use of 
senses which were given to it for its domestic neces- 
sities, and by means of the assistants of those senses 
which it has had the art to procure, should have been 
enabled to observe the whole system of worlds to which 
its own belongs ; the changes of place of the immense 
globes which compose it; and with such accuracy, as 
to mark out beforehand, the situation in the heavens in 
which they will be found at any future point of time; 
and that these bodies, after sailing through regions 
of void and trackless space, should arrive at the place 
where they were expected, not within a minute, but 
within a few seconds of a minute, of the time prefixed 
and predicted : all this is wonderful, whether we refer 
our admiration to the constancy of the heavenly mo- 
tions themselves, or to the perspicacity and precision 
with which they have been noticed by mankind. Nor 
is this the whole, nor indeed the chief part, of what 
astronomy teaches. By bringing reason to bear upon 
observation (the acutest reasoning upon the exactest 
observation), the astronomer has been able, out of the 


" mystic dance," and the confusion (for such it is) 
under which the motions of the heavenly bodies present 
themselves to the eye of a mere gazer upon the skies, 
to elicit their order and their real paths. 

Our knowledge therefore of astronomy is admirable, 
though imperfect : and, amidst the confessed desiderata 
and desideranda, which impede our investigation of the 
wisdom of the Deity in these the grandest of his works, 
there are to be found, in the phenomena, ascertained 
circumstances and laws, sufficient to indicate an intel- 
lectual agency in three of its principal operations, viz. 
in choosing, in determining, in regulating ; in choosing, 
out of a boundless variety of suppositions which were 
equally possible, that which is beneficial ; in determining, 
what, left to itself, had a thousand chances against con- 
veniency, for one in its favour ; in regulating subjects, 
as to quantity and degree, which, by their nature, were 
unlimited with respect to either. It will be our busi- 
ness to offer, under each of these heads, a few in- 
stances, such as best admit of a popular explication. 

I. Amongst proofs of choice, one is, fixing the 
source of light and heat in the centre of the system. 
The sun is ignited and luminous; the planets, which 
move round him, cold and dark. There seems to be 
no antecedent necessity for this order. The sun might 
have been an opaque mass; some one, or two, or more, 
or any, or all, the planets, globes of fire. There is 
nothing in the nature of the heavenly bodies, which 
requires that those which are stationary should be on 
fire, that those which move should be cold: for, in fact, 
comets are bodies on fire, or at least capable of the most 
intense heat, yet revolve round a centre : nor does this 
order obtain between the primary planets and their 
secondaries, which are all opaque. When we consider, 


therefore, that the sun is one ; that the planets going 
round it are, at least, seven; that it is indifferent to 
their nature, which are luminous and which are opaque ; 
and also, in what order, with respect to each other, 
these two kinds of bodies are disposed; we may judge 
of the improbability of the present arrangement taking 
place by chance. 

If, by way of accounting for the state in which we 
find the solar system, it be alleged (and this is one 
amongst the guesses of those who reject an intelligent 
Creator), that the planets themselves are only cooled or 
cooling masses, and were once, like the sun, many 
thousand times hotter than red-hot iron; then it 
follows, that the sun also himself must be in his pro- 
gress towards growing cold ; which puts an end to the 
possibility of his having existed, as he is, from eternity. 
This consequence arises out of the hypothesis with still 
more certainty, if we make a part of it, what the 
philosophers who maintain it have usually taught, that 
the planets were originally masses of matter, struck off 
in a state of fusion, from the body of the sun, by the 
percussion of a comet, or by a shock from some other 
cause, with which we are not acquainted : for, if these 
masses, partaking of the nature and substance of the 
sun's body, have in process of time lost their heat, that 
body itself, in time likewise, no matter in how much 
longer time, must lose its heat also, and therefore be 
incapable of an eternal duration in the state in which 
we see it, either for the time to come, or the time past. 

The preference of the present to any other mode of 
distributing luminous and opaque bodies, I take to be 
evident. It requires more astronomy than I am able 
to lay before the reader, to show, in its particulars, 
what would be the effect to the system, of a dark body 


at the centre, and of one of the planets being luminous: 
but I think it manifest, without either plates or cal- 
culation, first, that supposing the necessary proportion 
of magnitude between the central and the revolving 
bodies to be preserved, the ignited planet would not be 
sufficient to illuminate and warm the rest of the system ; 
secondly, that its light and heat would be imparted to 
the other planets much more irregularly than light and 
heat are now received from the sun. 

( # ) II. Another thing, in which a choice appears to 
be exercised, and in which, amongst the possibilities out 
of which the choice was to be made, the number of 
those which were wrong, bore an infinite proportion to 
the number of those which were right, is in what 
geometricians call the axis of rotation. This matter I 
will endeavour to explain. The earth, it is well known, 
is not an exact globe, but an oblate spheroid, some- 
thing like an orange. Now the axes of rotation, or the 
diameters upon which such a body may be made to 
turn round, are as many as can be drawn through its 
centre to opposite points upon its whole surface: but 
of these axes none are permanent, except either its 
shortest diameter, ft. e. that which passes through the 
heart of the orange from the place where the stalk is 
inserted into it, and which is but one; or its longest 
diameters, at right angles with the former, which must 
all terminate in the single circumference which goes 
round the thickest part of the orange. The shortest 
diameter is that upon which in fact the earth turns, 
and it is, as the reader sees, what it ought to be, a per- 
manent axis; whereas, had blind chance, had a casual 
impulse, had a stroke or push at random, set the earth 
a-spinning, the odds were infinite, but that they had 
sent it round upon a wrong axis. And what would 


have been the consequence? The difference between a 
permanent axis and another axis is this: When a 
spheroid in a state of rotatory motion gets upon a per- 
manent axis, it keeps there; it remains steady and 
faithful to its position: its poles preserve their direc- 
tion with respect to the plane and to the centre of its 
orbit: but, whilst it turns upon an axis which is not 
permanent (and the number of those we have seen 
infinitely exceeds the number of the other), it is always 
liable to shift and vacillate from one axis to another, 
with a corresponding change in the inclination of its 
poles. Therefore, if a planet once set off revolving 
upon any other than its shortest, or one of its longest 
axes, the poles on its surface would keep perpetually 
changing, and it never would attain a permanent axis 
of rotation. The effect of this unfixedness and insta- 
bility would be, that the equatorial parts of the earth 
might become the polar, or the polar the equatorial; 
to the utter destruction of plants and animals, which 
are not capable of interchanging their situations, but 
are respectively adapted to their own. As to ourselves, 
instead of rejoicing in our temperate zone, and annually 
preparing for the moderate vicissitude, or rather the 
agreeable succession, of seasons, which we experience 
and expect, we might come to be locked up in the ice 
and darkness of the arctic circle, with bodies neither 
inured to its rigours, nor provided with shelter or 
defence against them. Nor would it be much better, 
if the trepidation of our pole, taking an opposite course, 
should place us under the heats of a vertical sun. But 
if it would fare so ill with the human inhabitant, who 
can live under greater varieties of latitude than any 
other animal ; still more noxious would this translation 
of climate have proved to life in the rest of the creation; 


and, most perhaps of all, in plants. The habitable 
earth, and its beautiful variety, might have been de- 
stroyed, by a simple mischance in the axis of rotation. 
(*) III. All this, however, proceeds upon a sup- 
position of the earth having been formed at first an 
oblate spheroid. There is another supposition; and 
perhaps our limited information will not enable us to 
decide between them. The second supposition is, that 
the earth, being a mixed mass somewhat fluid, took, as 
it might do, its present form, by the joint action of the 
mutual gravitation of its parts and its rotatory motion. 
This, as we have said, is a point in the history of the 
earth, which our observations are not sufficient to de- 
termine. For a very small depth below the surface 
(but extremely small — less, perhaps, than an eight 
thousandth part, compared with the depth of the 
centre), we find vestiges of ancient fluidity. But this 
fluidity must have gone down many hundred times 
farther than we can penetrate, to enable the earth to 
take its present oblate form : and whether any traces of 
this kind exist to that depth, we are ignorant. Cal- 
culations were made a few years ago, of the mean den- 
sity of the earth, by comparing the force of its attraction 
with the force of attraction of a rock of granite, the 
bulk of which could be ascertained : and the upshot of 
the calculation was, that the earth upon an average, 
through its whole sphere, has twice the density of gra- 
nite, or above Hxe times that of water. Therefore 
it cannot be a hollow shell, as some have formerly 
supposed; nor can its internal parts be occupied by 
central fire, or by water. The solid parts must greatly 
exceed the fluid parts : and the probability is, that it is 
a solid mass throughout, composed of substances more 
ponderous the deeper we go. Nevertheless, we may 


conceive the present face of the earth to have originated 
from the revolution of a sphere, covered by a surface of 
a compound mixture; the fluid and solid parts sepa- 
rating, as the surface becomes quiescent. Here then 
comes in the moderating hand of the Creator. If the 
water had exceeded its present proportion, even but by 
a trifling quantity, compared with the whole globe, all 
the land would have been covered: had there been 
much less than there is, there would not have been 
enough to fertilize the continent. Had the exsiccation 
been progressive, such as we may suppose to have been 
produced by an evaporating heat, how came it to stop 
at the point at which we see it? Why did it not stop 
sooner? why at all? The mandate of the Deity will 
account for this; nothing else will. 

IV. Of centripetal forces. By virtue of the 
simplest law that can be imagined, vi%. that a body 
continues in the state in which it is, whether of motion 
or rest; and, if in motion, goes on in the line in which 
it was proceeding, and with the same velocity, unless 
there be some cause for change: by virtue, I say, of 
this law, it comes to pass (what may appear to be a 
strange consequence), that cases arise, in which at- 
traction, incessantly drawing a body towards a centre, 
never brings, nor ever will bring, the body to that 
centre, but keep it in eternal circulation round it. If 
it were possible to fire off a cannon-ball with a velocity 
of five miles in a second, and the resistance of the air 
could be taken away, the cannon-ball would for ever 
wheel round the earth, instead of falling down upon it. 
This is the principle which sustains the heavenly mo- 
tions. The Deity, having appointed this law to matter 
(than which, as we have said before, no law could be 
more simple), has turned it to a wonderful account in 
constructing planetary systems. 


The actuating cause in these systems, is an attraction 
which varies reciprocally as the square of the distance ; 
that is, at double the distance, has a quarter of the 
force; at half the distance, four times the strength; 
and so on. Now concerning this law of variation, we 
have three things to observe: First; that attraction, 
for any thing we know about it, was just as capable of 
one law of variation, as of another: Secondly; that, 
out of an infinite number of possible laws, those which 
were admissible for the purpose of supporting the 
heavenly motions, lay within certain narrow limits: 
Thirdly; that of the admissible laws, or those which 
come within the limits prescribed, the law that actually 
prevails is the most beneficial. So far as these pro- 
positions can be made out, we may be said, I think, to 
prove choice, and regulation : choice, out of boundless 
variety; and regulation, of that which, by its own 
nature, was, in respect of the property regulated, in- 
different and indefinite. 

I. First then, attraction, for any thing we know about 
it, was originally indifferent to all laws of variation 
depending upon change of distance, i. e. just as sus- 
ceptible of one law as of another. It might have been 
the same at all distances; it might have increased as 
the distance increased: or it might have diminished 
with the increase of the distance, yet in ten thousand 
different proportions from the present; it might have 
followed no stated law at all. If attraction be what 
Cotes, with many other Newtonians, thought it to be, 
a primordial property of matter, not dependent upon, 
or traceable to, any other material cause ; then, by the 
very nature and definition of a primordial property, it 
stood indifferent to all laws. If it be the agency of 
something immaterial; then also, for any thing we 
know of it, it was indifferent to all laws. If the re- 


volution of bodies round a centre depend upon vortices, 
neither are these limited to one law more than another. 
There is, I know, an account given of attraction, 
which should seem, in its very cause, to assign to it the 
law which we find it to observe ; and which, therefore, 
makes that law, a law, not of choice, but of necessity : 
and it is the account, which ascribes attraction to an 
emanation from the attracting body. It is probable, 
that the influence of such an emanation will be pro- 
portioned to the spissitude of the rays of which it is 
composed ; which spissitude, supposing the rays to 
issue in right lines on all sides from a point, will be 
reciprocally as the square of the distance. The ma- 
thematics of this solution we do not call in question : 
the question with us is, whether there be any sufficient 
reason for believing that attraction is produced by an 
emanation. For my part, I am totally at a loss to 
comprehend how particles streaming from a centre 
should draw a body towards it. The impulse, if im- 
pulse it be, is all the other way. Nor shall we find 
less difficulty in conceiving a conflux of particles, in- 
cessantly flowing to a centre, and carrying down all 
bodies along with it, that centre also itself being in a 
state of rapid motion through absolute space; for, by 
what source is the stream fed, or what becomes of the 
accumulation? Add to which, that it seems to imply a 
contrariety of properties, to suppose an aethereal fluid 
to act, but not to resist; powerful enough to carry 
down bodies with great force towards a centre, yet, 
inconsistently with the nature of inert matter, power- 
less and perfectly yielding with respect to the motions 
which result from the projectile impulse. By cal- 
culations drawn from ancient notices of eclipses of the 
moon, we can prove that, if such a fluid exist at all, its 
vol. iv. t 


resistance has had no sensible effect upon the moon's 
motion for two thousand five hundred years. The 
truth is, that, except this one circumstance of the 
variation of the attracting force at different distances 
agreeing with the 'variation of the spissitude, there is 
no reason whatever to support the hypothesis of an 
emanation ; and, as it seems to me, almost insuperable 
reasons against it. 

(*) II. Our second proposition is, that, whilst the 
possible laws of variation were infinite, the admissible 
laws, or the laws compatible with the preservation of 
the system, lie within narrow limits. If the attracting 
force had varied according to any direct law of the 
distance, let it have been what it would, great de- 
struction and confusion would have taken place. The 
direct simple proportion of the distance would, it is 
true, have produced an ellipse: but the perturbing 
forces would have acted with so much advantage, as to 
be continually changing the dimensions of the ellipse, 
in a manner inconsistent with our terrestrial creation. 
For instance; if the planet Saturn, so large and so 
remote, had attracted the earth, both in proportion to 
the quantity of matter contained in it, which it does; 
and also in any proportion to its distance, i. e. if it had 
pulled the harder for being the farther off (instead of 
the reverse of it), it would have dragged out of its 
course the globe which we inhabit, and have perplexed 
its motions, to a degree incompatible with our security, 
our enjoyments, and probably our existence. Of the 
inverse laws, if the centripetal force had changed as the 
cube of the distance, or in any higher proportion, that 
is (for I speak to the unlearned), if, at double the 
distance, the attractive force had been diminished to an 
eighth part, or to less than that, the consequence would 


have been, that the planets, if they once began to ap- 
proach the sun, would have fallen into his body; if 
they once, though by ever so little, increased their 
distance from the centre, would for ever have receded 
from it. The laws therefore of attraction, by which a 
system of revolving bodies could be upholden in their 
motions, lie within narrow limits, compared with the 
possible laws. I much under-rate the restriction, when 
I say that, in a scale of a mile, they are confined to an 
inch. All direct ratios of the distance are excluded, 
on account of danger from perturbing forces : all reci- 
procal ratios, except what lie beneath the cube of the 
distance, by the demonstrable consequence, that every 
the least change of distance would, under the operation 
of such laws, have been fatal to the repose and order of 
the system. We do not know, that is, we seldom 
reflect, how interested we are in this matter. Small 
irregularities may be endured; but, changes within 
these limits being allowed for, the permanency of our 
ellipse is a question of life and death to our whole 
sensitive world. 

(*) III. That the subsisting law of attraction falls 
within the limits which utility requires, when these 
limits bear so small a proportion to the range of possi- 
bilities upon which chance might equally have cast it, 
is not, with any appearance of reason, to be accounted 
for, by any other cause than a regulation proceeding 
from a designing mind. But our next proposition 
carries the matter somewhat farther. We say, in the 
third place, that, out of the different laws which lie 
within the limits of admissible laws, the best is made 
choice of; that there are advantages in this particular 
law which cannot be demonstrated to belong to any 

t °2 


other law ; and, concerning some of which, it can be 
demonstrated that they do not belong to any other. 

(*) 1. Whilst this law prevails between each particle 
of matter, the united attraction of a sphere, composed 
of that matter, observes the same law. This property 
of the law is necessary, to render it applicable to a 
system composed of spheres, but it is a property which 
belongs to no other law of attraction that is admissible. 
The law of variation of the united attraction is in no 
other case the same as the law of attraction of each 
particle, one case excepted, and that is of the attraction 
varying directly as the distance; the inconveniency of 
which law in other respects, we have already noticed. 

We may follow this regulation somewhat farther, and 
still more strikingly perceive that it proceeded from a 
designing mind. A law both admissible and convenient 
was requisite. In what way is the law of the attracting 
globes obtained? Astronomical observations and terres- 
trial experiments show that the attraction of the globes 
of the system is made up of the attraction of their parts; 
the attraction of each globe being compounded of the 
attractions of its parts. Now the admissible and con- 
venient law which exists, could not be obtained in a 
system of bodies gravitating by the united gravitation of 
their parts, unless each particle of matter were attracted 
by a force varying by one particular law, viz. varying 
inversely as the square of the distance: for, if the action 
of the particles be according to any other law whatever, 
the admissible and convenient law, which is adopted, 
could not be obtained. Here then are clearly shown 
regulation and design. A law both admissible and 
convenient was to be obtained; the mode chosen for 
obtaining that law was by making each particle of matter 


act. After this choice was made, then farther attention 
was to be given to each particle of matter, and one, 
and one only particular law of action to be assigned 
to it. No other law would have answered the purpose 

( # ) 2. All systems must be liable to perturbations. 
And therefore, to guard against these perturbations, or 
rather to guard against their running to destructive 
lengths, is perhaps the strongest evidence of care and 
foresight that can be given. Now, we are able to de- 
monstrate of our law of attraction, what can be demon- 
strated of no other, and what qualifies the dangers 
which arise from cross but unavoidable influences ; that 
the action of the parts of our system upon one another, 
will not cause permanently increasing irregularities, but 
merely periodical or vibratory ones ; that is, they will 
come to a limit, and then go back again. This we can 
demonstrate only of a system, in which the following 
properties concur, 0k that the force shall be inversely 
as the square of the distance ; the masses of the re- 
volving bodies small, compared with that of the body at 
the centre ; the orbits not much inclined to one another; 
and their eccentricity little. In such a system, the 
grand points are secure. The mean distances and pe- 
riodic times, upon which depend our temperature, and 
the regularity of our year, are constant. The eccen- 
tricities, it is true, will still vary ; but so slowly, and to 
so small an extent, as to produce no inconveniency from 
fluctuation of temperature and season. The same as to 
the obliquity of the planes of the orbits. For instance, 
the inclination of the ecliptic to the equator will never 
change above two degrees (out of ninety), and that will 
require many thousand years in performing. 

It has been rightly also remarked, that, if the great 


planets, Jupiter and Saturn, had moved in lower spheres, 
their influences would have had much more effect as to 
disturbing the planetary motions, than they now have. 
While they revolve at so great distances from the rest, 
they act almost equally on the sun and on the inferior 
planets; which has nearly the same consequence as not 
acting at all upon either, 

If it be said, that the planets might have been sent 
round the sun in exact circles, in which case, no change 
of distance from the centre taking place, the law of 
variation of the attracting power would have never 
come in question, one law would have served as well as 
another; an answer to the scheme may be drawn from 
the consideration of these same perturbing forces. The 
system retaining in other respects its present consti- 
tution, though the planets had been at first sent round 
in exact circular orbits, they could not have kept them : 
and if the law of attraction had not been what it is, or 
at least, if the prevailing law had transgressed the limits 
above assigned, every evagation would have been fatal : 
the planet once drawn, as drawn it necessarily must 
have been, out of its course, would have wandered in 
endless error. 

( # ) V. What we have seen in the law of the centri- 
petal force, viz. a choice guided by views of utility, and 
a choice of one law out of thousands which might 
equally have taken place, we see no less in the figures 
of the planetary orbits. It was not enough to fix the 
law of the centripetal force, though by the wisest 
choice ; for, even under that law, it was still competent 
to the planets to have moved in paths possessing so 
great a degree of eccentricity, as, in the course of every 
revolution, to be brought very near to the sun, and 
carried away to immense distances from him. The 


comets actually move in orbits of this sort: and, had 
the planets done so, instead of going round in orbits 
nearly circular, the change from one extremity of tem- 
perature to another must, in ours at least, have de- 
stroyed every animal and plant upon its surface. Now, 
the distance from the centre at which a planet sets off, 
and the absolute force of attraction at that distance, 
being fixed, the figure of its orbit, its being a circle, or 
nearer to, or farther off from a circle, viz. a rounder or 
a longer oval, depends upon two things, the velocity 
with which, and the direction in which, the planet is 
projected. And these, in order to produce a right re- 
sult, must be both brought within certain narrow limits. 
One, and only one, velocity, united with one, and only 
one, direction, will produce a perfect circle. And the 
velocity must be near to this velocity, and the direction 
also near to this direction, to produce orbits, such as the 
planetary orbits are, nearly circular; that is, ellipses 
with small eccentricities. The velocity and the direc- 
tion must both be right. If the velocity be wrong, no 
direction will cure the error ; if the direction be in any 
considerable degree oblique, no velocity will produce 
the orbit required. Take for example the attraction of 
gravity at the surface of the earth. The force of that 
attraction being what it is, out of all the degrees of 
velocity, swift and slow, with which a ball might be 
shot off, none would answer the purpose of which we 
are speaking, but what was nearly that of five miles in a 
second. If it were less than that, the body would not 
get round at all, but would come to the ground; if it 
were in any considerable degree more than that, the 
body would take one of those eccentric courses, those 
long ellipses, of which we have noticed the inconveni- 
ency. If the velocity reached the rate of seven miles 


in a second, or went beyond that, the ball would fly off 
from the earth, and never be heard of more. In like 
manner with respect to the direction; out of the innu- 
merable angles in which the ball might be sent off (I 
mean angles formed with a line drawn to the centre), 
none would serve but what was nearly a right one: out 
of the various directions in which the cannon might be 
pointed, upwards and downwards, every one would fail, 
but what was exactly or nearly horizontal. The same 
thing holds true of the planets : of our own amongst 
the rest. We are entitled therefore to ask, and to urge 
the question, Why did the projectile velocity and pro- 
jectile direction of the earth happen to be nearly those 
which would retain it in a circular form ? Why not one 
of the infinite number of velocities, one of the infinite 
number of directions, which would have made it approach 
much nearer to, or recede much farther from, the sun? 
The planets going round, all in the same direction, 
and all nearly in the same plane, afforded to Buffon a 
ground for asserting, that they had all been shivered 
from the sun by the same stroke of a comet, and by 
that stroke projected into their present orbits. Now, 
beside that this is to attribute to chance the fortunate 
concurrence of velocity and direction which we have 
been here noticing, the hypothesis, as I apprehend, is 
inconsistent with the physical laws by which the hea- 
venly motions are governed. If the planets were struck 
off from the surface of the sun, they would return to 
the surface of the sun again. Nor will this difficulty 
be got rid of, by supposing that the same violent blow 
which shattered the sun's surface, and separated large 
fragments from it, pushed the sun himself out of his 
place ; for, the consequence of this would be, that the 
sun and system of shattered fragments would have a 


progressive motion, which, indeed, may possibly be the 
case with our system ; but then each fragment would, 
in every revolution, return to the surface of the sun 
again. The hypothesis is also contradicted by the vast 
difference which subsists between the diameters of the 
planetary orbits. The distance of Saturn from the sun 
(to say nothing of the Georgium Sidus) is nearly five- 
and-twenty times that of Mercury; a disparity, which 
it seems impossible to reconcile with Buffon's scheme* 
Bodies starting from the same place, with whatever dif- 
ference of direction or velocity they set off, could not 
have been found at these different distances from the 
centre, still retaining their nearly circular orbits. They 
must have been carried to their proper distances, before 
they were projected*. 

To conclude : In astronomy, the great thing is to 
raise the imagination to the subject, and that oftentimes 
in opposition to the impression made upon the senses. 
An illusion, for example, must be gotten over, arising 
from the distance at which we view the heavenly bodies, 
viz, the apparent slowness of their motions. The moon 

* " If we suppose the matter of the system to be accumulated in 
the centre by its gravity, no mechanical principles, with the as-*- 
sistance of this power of gravity, could separate the vast mass into 
such parts as the sun and planets ; and, after carrying them to their 
different distances, project them in their several directions, pre- 
serving still the quality of action and re-action, or the state of the 
centre of gravity of the system. Such an exquisite structure of 
things could only arise from the contrivance and powerful influences 
of an intelligent, free, and most potent agent. The same powers, 
therefore, which, at present, govern the material universe, and con- 
duct its various motions, are very different from those which were 
necessary to have produced it from nothing, or to have disposed it in 
the admirable form in which it now proceeds." — Maclaurins Account 
of Newton s Philosophy , p. 407. ed. 3. 


shall take some hours in getting half a yard from a star 
which it touched. A motion so deliberate, we may 
think easily guided. But what is the fact? The moon, 
in fact, is, all this while, driving through the heavens, 
at the rate of considerably more than two thousand 
miles in an hour; which is more than double of that 
with which a ball is shot off from the mouth of a cannon. 
Yet is this prodigious rapidity as much under govern- 
ment, as if the planet proceeded ever so slowly, or were 
conducted in its course inch by inch. It is also dif- 
ficult to bring the imagination to conceive (what yet, to 
judge tolerably of the matter, it is necessary to conceive) 
how loose, if we may so express it, the heavenly bodies 
are. Enormous globes, held by nothing, confined by 
nothing, are turned into free and boundless space, each 
to seek its course by the virtue of an invisible principle; 
but a principle, one, common, and the same in all; and 
ascertainable. To preserve such bodies from being lost, 
from running together in heaps, from hindering and 
distracting one another's motions, in a degree incon- 
sistent with any continuing order; h. e. to cause them 
to form planetary systems, systems that, when formed, 
can be upheld, and, most especially, systems accom- 
modated to the organised and sensitive natures, which 
the planets sustain, as we know to be the case, where 
alone we can know what the case is, upon our earth : 
all this requires an intelligent interposition, because it 
can be demonstrated concerning it, that it requires an 
adjustment of force, distance, direction, and velocity, 
out of the reach of chance to have produced ; an ad- 
justment, in its view to utility, similar to that which we 
see in ten thousand subjects of nature which are nearer 
to us, but in power, and in the extent of space through 
which thai power is exerted, stupendous. 


But many of the heavenly bodies, as the sun and 
fixed stars, are stationary. Their rest must be the 
effect of an absence or of an equilibrium of attractions. 
It proves also, that a projectile impulse was originally 
given to some of the heavenly bodies, and not to others. 
But farther; if attraction act at all distances, there can 
only be one quiescent centre of gravity in the universe: 
and all bodies whatever must be approaching this centre, 
or revolving round it. According to the first of these 
suppositions, if the duration of the world had been long 
enough to allow of it, all its parts, all the great bodies 
of which it is composed, must have been gathered 
together in a heap round this point. No changes how- 
ever which have been observed, afford us the smallest 
reason for believing, that either the one supposition or 
the other is true: and then it will follow, that attraction 
itself is controlled or suspended by a superior agent; 
that there is a power above the highest of the powers of 
material nature; a will which restrains and circum- 
scribes the operations of the most extensive*. 

* It must here, however, be stated, that many astronomers deny- 
that any of the heavenly bodies are absolutely stationary. Some of 
the brightest of the fixed stars have certainly small motions: and of 
the rest the distance is too great, and the intervals of our observation 
too short, to enable us to pronounce with certainty that they may 
not have the same. The motions in the fixed stars which have been 
observed, are considered either as proper to each of them, or as com- 
pounded of the motion of our system, and of motions proper to each 
star. By a comparison of these motions, a motion in our system is 
supposed to be discovered. By continuing this analogy to other, and 
to all systems, it is possible to suppose that attraction is unlimited, 
and that the whole material universe is revolving round some fixed 
point within its containing sphere or space. 




Contrivance, if established, appears to me to prove 
every thing which we wish to prove. Amongst other 
things, it proves the personality of the Deity, as distin- 
guished from what is sometimes called nature, some- 
times called a principle : which terms, in the mouths of 
those who use them philosophically, seem to be intended, 
to admit and to express an efficacy, but to exclude and 
to deny a personal agent. Now that which can con- 
trive, which can design, must be a person. These 
capacities constitute personality, for they imply con- 
sciousness and thought. They require that which can 
perceive an end or purpose; as well as the power of pro- 
viding means, and of directing them to their end*. 
They require a centre in which perceptions unite, and 
from which volitions flow; which is mind. The acts of 
a mind prove the existence of a mind; and in whatever 
a mind resides, is a person. The seat of intellect 
is a person. We have no authority to limit the 
properties of mind to any particular corporeal form, 
or to any particular circumscription of space. These 
properties subsist, in created nature, under a great 
variety of sensible forms. Also every animated being 
has its sensorium; that is, a certain portion of space, 
within which perception and volition are exerted. 
This sphere may be enlarged to an indefinite extent y 
may comprehend the universe; and, being so imagined, 
may serve to furnish us with as good a notion, as we 
are capable of forming, of the immensity of the Divine 
Nature, i. e. of a Being, infinite, as well in essence as in 
power ; yet nevertheless a person. 

* Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, p. 1 53, ecK 2. 


" No man hath seen God at any time." And this, 
I believe, makes the great difficulty. Now it is a dif- 
ficulty which chiefly arises from our not duly estimating 
the state of our faculties. The Deity, it is true, is the 
object of none of our senses: but reflect what limited 
capacities animal senses are. Many animals seem to 
have but one sense, or perhaps two at the most ; touch 
and taste. Ought such an animal to conclude against 
the existence of odours, sounds, and colours? To an- 
other species is given the sense of smelling. This is an 
advance in the knowledge of the powers and properties 
of nature: but, if this favoured animal should infer 
from its superiority over the class last described, that it 
perceived every thing which was perceptible in nature, 
it is known to us, though perhaps not suspected by the 
animal itself, that it proceeded upon a false and pre- 
sumptuous estimate of its faculties. To another is 
added the sense of hearing; which lets in a class of 
sensations entirely unconceived by the animal before 
spoken of; not only distinct, but remote from any which 
it had ever experienced, and greatly superior to them. 
Yet this last animal has no more ground for believing, 
that its senses comprehend all things, and all pro- 
perties of things, which exist, than might have been 
claimed by the tribes of animals beneath it; for we 
know, that it is still possible to possess another sense, 
that of sight, which shall disclose to the percipient a 
new world. This fifth sense makes the animal what 
the human animal is ; but to infer, that possibility stops 
here; that either this fifth sense is the last sense, or 
that the five comprehend all existence ; is just as un- 
warrantable a conclusion, as that which might have 
been made by any of the different species which pos- 
sessed fewer, or even by that, if such there be, which 


possessed only one. The conclusion of the one-sense 
animal, and the conclusion of the five-sense animal, 
stand upon the same authority. There may be more 
and other senses than those which we have. There 
may be senses suited to the perception of the powers, 
properties, and substance, of spirits. These may belong 
to higher orders of rational agents; for there is not the 
smallest reason for supposing that we are the highest, 
or that the scale of creation stops with us. 

The great energies of nature are known to us only 
by their effects. The substances which produce them, 
are as much concealed from our senses as the Divine 
essence itself. Gravitation, though constantly present, 
though constantly exerting its influence, though every 
where around us, near us, and within us ; though dif- 
fused throughout all space, and penetrating the texture 
of all bodies with which we are acquainted, depends, if 
upon a fluid, upon a fluid which, though both powerful 
and universal in its operation, is no object of sense to 
us; if upon any other kind of substance or action, 
upon a substance and action, from which we receive no 
distinguishable impressions. Is it then to be wondered 
at, that it should, in some measure, be the same with 
the Divine nature? 

Of this however we are certain, that whatever the 
Deity be, neither the universe, nor any part of it which 
we see, can be He. The universe itself is merely a col- 
lective name : its parts are all which are real ; or which 
are things. Now inert matter is out of the question: 
and organised substances include marks of contrivance. 
But whatever includes marks of contrivance, whatever, 
in its constitution, testifies design, necessarily carries us 
to something beyond itself, to some other being, to a 
designer prior to, and out of, itself. No animal, for 


instance, can have contrived its own limbs and senses: 
can have been the author to itself of the design with 
which they were constructed. That supposition in- 
volves all the absurdity of self-creation, i. e, of acting 
without existing. Nothing can be God, which is ordered 
by a wisdom and a will, which itself is void of; which 
is indebted for any of its properties to contrivance ab 
extra. The not having that in his nature which re- 
quires the exertion of another prior being (which pro- 
perty is sometimes called self-sufficiency, and sometimes 
self-comprehension), appertains to the Deity, as his 
essential distinction, and removes his nature from that 
of all things which we see. Which consideration con- 
tains the answer to a question that has sometimes been 
asked, namely, Why, since something or other must 
have existed from eternity, may not the present universe 
be that something? The contrivance perceived in it, 
proves that to be impossible. Nothing contrived, can, 
in a strict and proper sense, be eternal, forasmuch as 
the contriver must have existed before the contrivance. 
Wherever we see marks of contrivance, we are led 
for its cause to an intelligent author. And this tran- 
sition of the understanding is founded upon uniform 
experience. We see intelligence constantly contriving; 
that is, we see intelligence constantly producing effects, 
marked and distinguished by certain properties; not 
certain particular properties, but by a kind and class of 
properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts 
to one another, and to a common purpose. We see, 
wherever we are witnesses to the actual formation of 
things, nothing except intelligence producing effects so 
marked and distinguished. Furnished with this ex- 
perience, we view the productions of nature. We ob- 
serve them also marked and distinguished in the same 
manner. We wish to account for their origin. Our 


experience suggests a cause perfectly adequate to this 
account. No experience, no single instance or example, 
can be offered in favour of any other. In this cause 
therefore we ought to rest ; in this cause the common 
sense of mankind has, in fact, rested, because it agrees 
with that, which, in all cases, is the foundation of 
knowledge, — the undeviating course of their experience. 
The reasoning is the same as that, by which we conclude 
any ancient appearances to have been the effects of 
volcanoes or inundations; namely, because they resemble 
the effects which fire and water produce before our eyes ; 
and because we have never known these effects to result 
from any other operation. And this resemblance may 
subsist in so many circumstances, as not to leave us 
under the smallest doubt in forming our opinion. Men 
are not deceived by this reasoning: for whenever it 
happens, as it sometimes does happen, that the truth 
comes to be known by direct information, it turns out 
to be what was expected. In like manner, and upon 
the same foundation (which in truth is that of ex- 
perience) we conclude that the works of nature proceed 
from intelligence and design ; because, in the properties 
of relation to a purpose, subserviency to a use, they 
resemble what intelligence and design are constantly 
producing, and what nothing except intelligence and 
design ever produce at all. Of every argument, 
which would raise a question as to the safety of this 
reasoning, it may be observed, that if such argument 
be listened to, it leads to the inference, not only that 
the present order of nature is insufficient to prove the 
existence of an intelligent Creator, but that no ima- 
ginable order would be sufficient to prove it; that no 
contrivance, were it ever so mechanical, ever so precise, 
ever so clear, ever so perfectly like those which we 
ourselves employ, would support this conclusion. A 


doctrine, to which I conceive no sound mind can 

The force however of the reasoning is sometimes sunk 
by our taking up with mere names. We have already 
noticed*, and we must here notice again, the misap- 
plication of the term " law," and the mistake con- 
cerning the idea which that term expresses in physics, 
whenever such idea is made to take the place of power, 
and still more of an intelligent power, and, as such, to 
be assigned for the cause of any thing, or of any pro- 
perty of any thing, that exists. This is what we are 
secretly apt to do, when we speak of organised bodies 
(plants for instance, or animals), owing their pro- 
duction, their form, their growth, their qualities, their 
beauty, their use, to any law or laws of nature ; and 
when we are contented to sit down with that answer to 
our inquiries concerning them. I say once more, that 
it is a perversion of, language to assign any law, as the 
efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law pre- 
supposes an agent, for it is only the mode according to 
which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is 
the order according to which that power acts. With* 
out this agent, without this power, which are both 
distinct from itself, the "law" does nothing; is nothing. 

What has been said concerning "lav/," holds true of 
mechanism. Mechanism is not itself power. Mechanism, 
without power, can do nothing. Let a watch be contrived 
and constructed ever so ingeniously; be its parts ever 
so many, ever so complicated, ever so finely wrought or 
artificially put together, it cannot go without a weight 
or spring, i. e. without a force independent of, and ul- 
terior to, its mechanism. The spring acting at the centre, 
will produce different motions and different results, 
according to the variety of the intermediate mechanism, 

* Ch. I. sect. vii. 



One and the self-same spring, acting in one and the 
same manner, viz. by simply expanding itself, may be 
the cause of a hundred different and all useful move- 
ments, if a hundred different and well-devised sets of 
wheels be placed between it and the final effect ; e. g. 
may point out the hour of the day, the day of the 
month, the age of the moon, the position of the planets, 
the cycle of the years, and many other serviceable 
notices; and these movements may fulfil their pur- 
poses with more or less perfection, according as the 
mechanism is better or worse contrived, or better or 
worse executed, or in a better or worse state of repair : 
hut in all cases, it is necessary that the spring act at 
the centre. The course of our reasoning upon such a 
subject would be this : By inspecting the watch, even 
when standing still, we get a proof of contrivance, and 
of a contriving mind, having been employed about it. 
In the form and obvious relation of its parts, we see 
enough to convince us of this. If we pull the works in 
pieces, for the purpose of a closer examination, we are 
still more fully convinced. But, when we see the 
watch going, we see proof of another point, viz. that 
there is a power somewhere, and somehow or other, 
applied to it; a power in action; — that there is more 
in the subject than the mere wheels of the machine; — - 
that there is a secret spring, or a gravitating plummet ; 
— in a word, that there is force, and energy, as well as 

So then, the watch in motion establishes to the ob- 
server two conclusions : One ; that thought, contrivance, 
and design, have been employed in the forming, pro- 
portioning, and arranging of its parts ; and that who- 
ever or wherever he be, or were, such a contriver there 
is, or was: The other; that force or power, distinct 
from mechanism, is, at this present time, acting upon 


it. If I saw a hand-mill even at rest, I should see con- 
trivance : but if I saw it grinding, I should be assured 
that a hand was at the windlass, though in another 
room. It is the same in nature. In the works of na- 
ture we trace mechanism ; and this alone proves con- 
trivance: but living, active, moving, productive nature, 
proves also the exertion of a power at the centre : for, 
wherever the power resides may be denominated the 

The intervention and disposition of what are called 
" second causes" fall under the same observation. 
This disposition is or is not mechanism, according as 
we can or cannot trace it by our senses and means of 
examination. That is all the difference there is; and 
it is a difference which respects our faculties, not the 
things themselves. Now where the order of second 
causes is mechanical, what is here said of mechanism 
strictly applies to it. But it would be always mecha- 
nism (natural chymistry, for instance, would be mecha- 
nism), if our senses were acute enough to descry it. 
Neither mechanism, therefore, in the works of nature, 
nor the intervention of what are called second causes 
(for I think that they are the same thing), excuses the 
necessity of an agent distinct from both. 

If, in tracing these causes, it be said that we find 
certain general properties of matter which have nothing 
in them that bespeaks intelligence, I answer, that, still, 
the managing of these properties, the pointing and dir 
recting them to the uses which we see made of them, 
demands intelligence in the highest degree. For ex- 
ample; suppose animal secretions to be elective attrac- 
tions, and that such and such attractions universally 
belong to such and such substances ; in all which there 
is no intellect concerned $ still the choice and colloca- 

u 2 


tion of these substances, the fixing upon right substances, 
and disposing them in right places, must be an act of 
intelligence. What mischief would follow, were there 
a single transposition of the secretory organs; a single 
mistake in arranging the glands which compose them ! 

There may be many second causes, and many courses 
of second causes, one behind another, between what we 
observe of nature, and the Deity: but there must be 
intelligence somewhere : there must be more in nature 
than what we see ; and, amongst the things unseen, 
there must be an intelligent, designing author. The 
philosopher beholds with astonishment the production 
of things around him. Unconscious particles of matter 
take their stations, and severally range themselves in an 
order, so as to become collectively plants or animals, 
i. e. organised bodies, with parts bearing strict and evi- 
dent relation to one another, and to the utility of the 
whole: and it should seem that these particles could 
not move in any other way than as they do ; for they 
testify not the smallest sign of choice, or liberty, or 
discretion. There may be particular intelligent beings, 
guiding these motions in each case: or they maybe the 
result of trains of mechanical dispositions, fixed before- 
hand by an intelligent appointment, and kept in action 
by a power at the centre. But, in either case, there 
must be intelligence. 

The minds of most men are fond of what they call a 
principle, and of the appearance of simplicity, in ac- 
counting for phenomena. Yet this principle, this sim- 
plicity, resides merely in the name; which name, after 
all, comprises, perhaps, under it a diversified, multifa- 
rious, or progressive operation, distinguishable into 
parts. The power in organised bodies, of producing 
bodies like themselves, is one of these principles. Give 


a philosopher this, and he can get on. But he does 
not reflect, what this mode of production, this principle 
(if such he choose to call it), requires; how much it 
presupposes ; what an apparatus of instruments, some 
of which are strictly mechanical, is necessary to its suc- 
cess; what a train it includes of operations and changes, 
one succeeding another, one related to another, one 
ministering to another; all advancing, by intermediate, 
and, frequently, by sensible steps, to their ultimate re- 
sult! Yet, because the whole of this complicated action 
is wrapped up in a single term, generation, we are to 
set it down as an elementary principle ; and to suppose, 
that when we have resolved the things which we see 
into this principle, we have sufficiently accounted for 
their origin, without the necessity of a designing, in- 
telligent Creator. The truth is, generation is not a 
principle, but a process. We might as well call the 
casting of metals a principle ; we might, so far as ap- 
pears to me, as well call spinning and weaving princi : 
pies: and -then, referring the texture of cloths, the 
fabric of muslins and calicoes, the patterns of diapers and 
damasks, to these, as principles, pretend to dispense 
with intention, thought, and contrivance, on the part 
of the artist; or to dispense, indeed, with the necessity 
of any artist at all, either in the manufacturing of the 
article, or in the fabrication of the machinery by which 
the manufacture was carried on. 

And, after all, how, or in what sense is it true, that 
animals produce their like? A butterfly, with a pro- 
boscis instead of a mouth, with four wings and six legs, 
produces a hairy caterpillar, with jaws and teeth, and 
fourteen feet. A frog produces a tadpole. A black 
beetle, with gauze wings, and a crusty covering, pro- 
duces a white, smooth, soft worm ; an ephemeron fly, 


a cod-bait maggot. These, by a progress through dif- 
ferent stages of life, and action, and enjoyment (and, 
in each state, provided with implements and organs ap- 
propriated to the temporary nature which they bear), 
arrive at last at the form and fashion of the parent ani- 
mal. But all this is process, not principle; and proves, 
moreover, that the property of animated bodies, of pro- 
ducing their like, belongs to them, not as a primordial 
property, not by any blind necessity in the nature of 
things, but as the effect of ceconomy, wisdom, and de- 
sign; because the property itself assumes diversities, 
and submits to deviations dictated by intelligible utili- 
ties, and serving distinct purposes of animal happiness. 

The opinion, which would consider " generation" as 
a principle in nature; and which would assign this 
principle as the cause, or endeavour to satisfy our minds 
with such a cause, of the existence of organised bodies; 
is confuted, in my judgement, not only by every mark 
of contrivance discoverable in those bodies, for which it 
gives us no contriver, offers no account whatever ; but 
also by the farther consideration, that things generated, 
possess a clear relation to things not generated. If it 
were merely one part of a generated body bearing a 
relation to another part of the same body ; as the mouth 
of an animal to the throat, the throat to the stomach, 
the stomach to the intestines, those to the recruiting of 
the blood, and, by means of the blood, to the nourish- 
ment of the whole frame : or if it were only one generated 
body bearing a relation to another generated body ; as 
the sexes of the same species to each other, animals of 
prey to their prey, herbivorous and granivorous animals 
to the plants or seeds upon which they feed ; it might 
be contended, that the whole of this correspondency 
was attributable to generation, the common origin from 


which these substances proceeded. But what shall we 
say to agreements which exist between things gene- 
rated and things not generated? Can it be doubted, 
was it ever doubted, but that the lungs of animals bear 
a relation to the <air 9 as a permanently elastic fluid? 
They act in it and by it ; they cannot act without it. 
Now, if generation produced the animal, it did not pro* 
duce the air: yet their properties correspond. The 
eye is made for light, and light for the eye. The eye 
would be of no use without light, and light perhaps of 
little without eyes ; yet one is produced by generation, 
the other not. The ear depends upon undulations of 
air. Here are two sets of motions; first, of the pulses 
of the air; secondly, of the drum, bones, and nerves of 
the ear; sets of motions bearing an evident reference to 
each other: yet the one, and the apparatus for the one> 
produced by the intervention of generation ; the other 
altogether independent of it. 

If it be said, that the air, the light, the elements, the 
world itself, is generated; I answer, that I do not com- 
prehend the proposition. If the term mean any thing 
similar to what it means when applied to plants or ani- 
mals, the proposition is certainly without proof; and, 
I think, draws as near to absurdity, as any proposition 
can do, which does not include a contradiction in its 
terms. I am at a loss to conceive, how the formation 
of the world can be compared to the generation of an 
animal. If the term generation signify something quite 
different from what it signifies on ordinary occasions, it 
may, by the same latitude, signify any thing. In which 
case, a word or phrase taken from the language of Ota- 
heite, would convey as much theory concerning the 
origin of the universe, as it does to talk of its being 


We know a cause (intelligence) adequate to the ap- 
pearances which we wish to account for: we have this 
cause continually producing similar appearances: yet, 
rejecting this cause, the sufficiency of which we know, 
and the action of which is constantly before our eyes, 
we are invited to resort to suppositions, destitute of a 
single fact for their support, and confirmed by no ana- 
logy with which we are acquainted. Were it necessary 
to inquire into the motives of men's opinions, I mean 
their motives separate from their arguments ; I should 
almost suspect, that, because the proof of a Deity drawn 
from the constitution of nature is not only popular but 
vulgar (which may arise from the cogency of the proof, 
and be indeed its highest recommendation), and because 
it is a species almost of puerility to take up with it; 
for these reasons, minds, which are habitually in search 
of invention and originality, feel a resistless inclination 
to strike off into other solutions and other expositions. 
The truth is, that many minds are not so indisposed to 
any thing which can be offered to them, as they are to 
the flatness of being content with common reasons : 
and, what is most to be lamented, minds conscious of 
superiority are the most liable to this repugnancy. 

The " suppositions" here alluded to, all agree in one 
character: they all endeavour to dispense with the ne- 
cessity in nature, of a particular, personal intelligence ; 
that is to say, with the exertion of an intending, con- 
triving mind, in the structure and formation of the or* 
ganised constitutions which the world contains. They 
would resolve all productions into unconscious energies, 
of a like kind, in that respect, with attraction, magnet- 
ism, electricity, &c. ; without any thing farther. 

In this, the old system of atheism and the new agree* 
And I much doubt, whether the new schemes have 


advanced any thing upon the old, or done more than 
changed the terms of the nomenclature. For instance, 
I could never see the difference between the antiquated 
system of atoms, and Buffon's organic molecules. This 
philosopher, having made a planet by knocking off from 
the sun a piece of melted glass, in consequence of the 
stroke of a comet; and having set it in motion, by the 
same stroke, both round its own axis and the sun; 
finds his next difficulty to be, how to bring plants and 
animals upon it. In order to solve this difficulty, we 
are to suppose the universe replenished with particles, 
endowed with life, but without organisation or senses 
of their own; and endowed also with a tendency to 
marshal themselves into organised forms. The con- 
course of these particles, by virtue of this tendency, 
but without intelligence, will, or direction, (for I do 
not find that any of these qualities are ascribed to 
them), has produced the living forms which we now 

Very few of the conjectures, which philosophers 
hazard upon these subjects, have more of pretension in 
them, than the challenging you to show the direct im- 
possibility of the hypothesis. In the present example, 
there seemed to be a positive objection to the whole 
scheme upon the very face of it ; which was that, if 
the case were as here represented, new combinations 
ought to be perpetually taking place; new plants and 
animals, or organised bodies which were neither, ought 
to be starting up before our eyes every day. For this, 
however, our philosopher has an answer. Whilst so 
many forms of plants and animals are already in exist- 
ence, and, consequently, so many " internal moulds," 
as he calls them, are prepared and at hand, the organic 
particles run into these moulds, and are employed in 


supplying an accession of substance to them, as well 
for their growth, as for their propagation. By which 
means, things keep their ancient course. But, says 
the same philosopher, should any general loss or de* 
struction of the present constitution of organised bodies 
take place, the particles, for want of " moulds" into 
which they might enter, would run into different com- 
binations, and replenish the waste with new species of 
organised substances. 

Is there any history to countenance this notion? Is 
it known, that any destruction has been so repaired? 
any desert thus re-peopled? 

So far as I remember, the only natural appearance 
mentioned by our author, by way of fact whereon to 
build his hypothesis, is the formation of worms in the 
intestines of animals, which is here ascribed to the coa- 
lition of superabundant organic particles, floating about 
in the first passages ; and which have combined them- 
selves into these simple animal forms, for want of in- 
ternal moulds, or of vacancies in those moulds, into 
which they might be received. The thing referred to, 
is rather a species of facts, than a single fact ; as some 
other cases may, with equal reason, be included under 
it. But to make it a fact at all, or, in any sort, ap- 
plicable to the question, we must begin with asserting 
an equivocal generation, contrary to analogy, and with* 
out necessity: contrary to an analogy, which accom- 
panies us to the very limits of our knowledge or in- 
quiries; for wherever, either in plants or animals, we 
are able to examine the subject, we find procreation 
from a parent form: without necessity; for I appre- 
hend that it is seldom difficult to suggest methods, by 
which the eggs, or spawn, or yet invisible rudiments of 
these vermin, may have obtained a passage into the 


cavities in which they are found*. Add to this, that 
their constancy to their species, which, I believe, is as 
regular in these as in the other vermes, decides the 
question against our philosopher, if, in truth, any ques- 
tion remained upon the subject. 

Lastly; these wonder-working instruments, these 
" internal moulds," what are they after all? what, when 
examined, but a name without signification; unin- 
telligible, if not self-contradictory; at the best, differing 
in nothing from the " essential forms" of the Greek 
philosophy? One short sentence of BufFon's work ex- 
hibits his scheme as follows : " When this nutritious 
and prolific matter, which is diffused throughout all 
nature, passes through the internal mould of an animal 
or vegetable, and finds a proper matrix, or receptacle, it 
gives rise to an animal or vegetable of the same species." 
Does any reader annex a meaning to the expression 
"internal mould," in this sentence? Ought it then 
to be said, that, though we have little notion of an in- 
ternal mould, we have not much more of a designing 
mind? The very contrary of this assertion is the 
truth. When we speak of an artificer or an architect, 
we talk of what is comprehensible to our understanding, 
and familiar to our experience. We use no other terms, 
than what refer us for their meaning to our conscious- 
ness and observation ; what express the constant objects 
of both ; whereas names like that we have mentioned, 
refer us to nothing ; excite no idea ; convey a sound to 
the ear, but I think do no more. 

Another system which has lately been brought for^ 

* I trust I may be excused, for not citing, as another fact which 
is to confirm the hypothesis, a grave assertion of this writer, that 
the branches of trees upon which the stag feeds, break out again in 
his horns. Such facts merit no discussion. 


ward, and with much ingenuity, is that of appetencies. 
The principle, and the short account of the theory, is 
this: Pieces of soft, ductile matter, being endued with 
propensities or appetencies for particular actions, would 
by continual endeavours, carried on through a long 
series of generations, work themselves gradually into 
suitable forms ; and, at length, acquire, though perhaps 
by obscure and almost imperceptible improvements, an 
organisation fitted to the action which their respective 
propensities led them to exert. A piece of animated 
matter, for example, that was endued with a propensity 
to fly, though ever so shapeless, though no other we 
will suppose than a round ball to begin with, would, in 
a course of ages, if not in a million of years, perhaps in 
a hundred millions of years (for our theorists, having 
eternity to dispose of, are never sparing in time), acquire 
wings. The same tendency to loco-motion in an aquatic 
animal, or rather in an animated lump, which might 
happen to be surrounded by water, would end in the 
production of fins: in a living substance, confined to the 
solid earth, would put out legs midfeet; or, if it took a 
different turn, would break the body into ringlets, and 
conclude by crawling upon the ground. 

Although I have introduced the mention of this 
theory into this place, I am unwilling to give to it the 
name of an atheistic scheme, for two reasons: first, be- 
cause, so far as I am able to understand it, the original 
propensities and the numberless varieties of them (so 
different, in this respect, from the laws of mechanical 
nature, which are few and simple), are, in the plan it- 
self, attributed to the ordination and appointment of 
an intelligent and designing Creator : secondly, because, 
likewise, that large postulatum, which is all along as- 
sumed and presupposed, the faculty in living bodies of 


producing other bodies organised like themselves, seems 
to be referred to the same cause ; at least is not attempted 
to be accounted for by any other. In one important 
respect, however, the theory before us coincides with 
atheistic systems, viz, in that, in the formation of 
plants and animals, in the structure and use of their 
parts, it does away final causes. Instead of the parts 
of a plant or animal, or the particular structure of the 
parts, having been intended for the action or the use 
to which we see them applied ; according to this theory, 
they have themselves grown out of that action, sprung 
from that use, The theory therefore dispenses with 
that which we insist upon, the necessity, in each par- 
ticular case, of an intelligent, designing mind, for the 
contriving and determining of the forms which organised 
bodies bear. Give our philosopher these appetencies; 
give him a portion of living irritable matter (a nerve, or 
the clipping of a nerve), to work upon: give also to his 
incipient or progressive forms, the power, in every stage, 
of their alteration, of propagating their like ; and, if he 
is to be believed, he could replenish the world with all 
the vegetable and animal productions which we at pre- 
sent see in it. 

The scheme under consideration is open to the same 
objection with other conjectures of a similar tendency, 
viz. a total defect of evidence. No changes, like those 
which the theory requires, have ever been observed. 
All the changes in Ovid's Metamorphoses might have 
been effected by these appetencies, if the theory were 
true; yet not an example, nor the pretence of an 
example, is offered of a single change being known to 
have taken place. Nor is the order of generation 
obedient to the principle upon which this theory is built. 


The mammae* of the male have not vanished by in, 
usitation ; nee curtorum, per multa scecula, Judceorum 
propagini deest prceputium. It is easy to say, and it 
has been said, that the alterative process is too slow to 
be perceived ; that it has been carried on through tracts 
of immeasurable time ; and that the present order of 
things is the result of a gradation, of which no human 
records can trace the steps. It is easy to say this ; and 
yet it is still true, that the hypothesis remains destitute 
of evidence. 

The analogies which have been alleged are of the 
following kind : The bunch of a camel, is said to be no 
other than the effect of carrying burdens ; a service in 
which the species has been employed from the most 
ancient times of the world. The first race, by the 
daily loading of the back, would probably find a small 
grumous tumour to be formed in the flesh of that part. 
The next progeny would bring this tumour into the 
world with them. The life to which they were destined, 
would increase it. The cause which first generated the 
tubercle being continued, it would go on, through every 
succession, to augment its size, till it attained the form 
and the bulk under which it now appears. This may 
serve for one instance: another, and that also of the 
passive sort, is taken from certain species of birds. 
Birds of the crane kind, as the crane itself, the heron, 
bittern, stork, have, in general, their thighs bare of fea- 
thers. This privation is accounted for from the habit 

* I confess myself totally at a loss to guess at the reason, either 
final or efficient, for this part of the animal frame: unless there be 
some foundation for an opinion, of which I draw the hint from a 
paper of Mr. Everard Home (Phil. Transact. 1799, p. 2), viz. that 
the mammae of the foetus may be formed, before the sex is determined. 


of wading in water, and from the effect of that element 
to check the growth of feathers upon these parts; in 
consequence of which, the health and vegetation of the 
feathers declined through each generation of the animal ; 
the tender down, exposed to cold and wetness, became 
weak, and thin, and rare, till the deterioration ended in 
the result which we see, of absolute nakedness. I will 
mention a third instance, because it is drawn from an 
active habit, as the two last were from passive habits; 
and that is the pouch of the pelican. The description 
which naturalists give of this organ, is as follows: 
" From the lower edges of the under chap, hangs a 
bag, reaching from the whole length of the bill to the 
neck, which is said to be capable of containing fifteen 
quarts of water. This bag, the bird has a power of 
wrinkling up into the hollow of the under chap. When 
the bag is empty, it is not seen : but when the bird has 
fished with success, it is incredible to what an extent it 
is often dilated. The first thing the pelican does in 
fishing, is to fill the bag ; and then it returns to digest 
its burden at leisure. The bird preys upon the large 
fishes, and hides them by dozens in its pouch. When 
the bill is opened to its widest extent, a person may run 
his head into the bird's mouth; and conceal it in this 
monstrous pouch, thus adapted for very singular pur- 
poses*." Now this extraordinary conformation is no- 
thing more, say our philosophers, than the result of 
habit ; not of the habit or effort of a single pelican, or 
of a single race of pelicans, but of a habit perpetuated 
through a long series of generations. The pelican soon 
found the conveniency of reserving in its mouth, when 
its appetite was glutted, the remainder of its prey, which 
is fish. The fulness produced by this attempt, of course 
* Goldsmith, vol. vi. p. 52. 


stretched the skin which lies between the under chaps, 
as being the most yielding part of the mouth. Every 
distention increased the cavity. The original bird, and 
many generations which succeeded him, might find dif- 
ficulty enough in making the pouch answer this purpose: 
but future pelicans, entering upon life with a pouch de- 
rived from their progenitors, of considerable capacity, 
would more readily accelerate its advance to perfection, 
by frequently pressing down the sac with the weight of 
fish which it might now be made to contain. 

These, or of this kind, are the analogies relied upon. 
Now, in the first place, the instances themselves are un- 
authenticated by testimony; and, in theory, to say the 
least of them, open to great objections. Who ever read 
of camels without bunches, or with bunches less than 
those with which they are at present usually formed? 
A bunch, not unlike the camel's, is found between the 
shoulders of the buffalo ; of the origin of which it is 
impossible to give the account here given. In the 
second example : Why should the application of water, 
which appears to promote and thicken the growth of 
feathers upon the bodies and breasts of geese, and swans, 
and other water-fowls, have divested of this covering 
the thighs of cranes? The third instance, which appears 
to me as plausible as any that can be produced, has this 
against it, that it is a singularity restricted to the 
species; whereas, if it had its commencement in the 
cause and manner which have been assigned, the like 
conformation might be expected to take place in other 
birds, which fed upon fish. How comes it to pass, that 
the pelican alone was the inventress, and her descend- 
ants the only inheritors, of this curious resource? 

But it is the less necessary to controvert the instances 
themselves, as it is a straining of analogy beyond all 


limits of reason and credibility, to assert that birds, and 
beasts, and fish, with all their variety and complexity of 
organisation, have been brought into their forms, and 
distinguished into their several kinds and natures, by 
the same process (even if that process could be demon- 
strated, or had it ever been actually noticed) as might 
seem to serve for the gradual* generation of a camel's 
bunch, or a pelican's pouch. 

The solution, when applied to the works of nature 
generally ', is contradicted by many of the phenomena, 
and totally inadequate to others. The ligaments or 
strictures, by which the tendons are tied down at the 
angles of the joints, could, by no possibility, be formed 
by the motion or exercise of the tendons themselves ; 
by any appetency exciting these -parts into action ; or 
by any tendency arising therefrom. The tendency is 
all the other way ; the conatus in constant opposition to 
them. Length of time does not help the case at all, 
but the reverse. The valves also in the blood-vessels, 
could never be formed in the manner which our theorist 
proposes. The blood, in its right and natural course, 
has no tendency to form them. When obstructed or 
refluent, it has the contrary. These parts could not 
grow out of their use, though they had eternity to 
grow in. 

The semes of animals appear to me altogether in- 
capable of receiving the explanation of their origin 
which this theory affords. Including under the word 
" sense" the organ and the perception, we have no 
account of either. How will our philosopher get at 
vision, or make an eye? How should the blind animal 
affect sight, of which blind animals, we know, have 
neither conception nor desire? Affecting it, by what 
operation of its will, by what endeavour to see, could it 

VOL. IV. x 


so determine the fluids of its body, as to inchoate the 
formation of an eye ? or suppose the eye formed, would 
the perception follow ? The same of the other senses. 
And this objection holds its force, ascribe what you will 
to the hand of time, to the power of habit, to changes 
too slow to be observed by man, or brought within 
any comparison which he is able to make of past things 
with the present ; concede what you please to these ar- 
bitrary and unattested suppositions, how will they help 
you? Here is no inception. No laws, no course, no 
powers of nature which prevail at present, nor any 
analogous to these, would give commencement to a new 
sense. And it is in vain to inquire how that might 
proceed, which could never begin. 

I think the senses to be the most inconsistent with 
the hypothesis before us, of any part of the animal 
frame, But other parts are sufficiently so. The solu- 
tion does not apply to the parts of animals, which have 
little in them of motion. If we could suppose joints 
and muscles to be gradually formed by action and 
exercise, what action or exercise could form a skull, and 
fill it with brains ? No effort of the animal could de- 
termine the clothing of its skin. What conatus could 
give prickles to the porcupine or hedgehog, or to the 
sheep its fleece? 

In the last place ; What do these appetencies mean 
when applied to plants? I am not able to give a sig- 
nification to the term, w T hich can be transferred from 
animals to plants; or which is common to both. Yet a 
no less successful organisation is found in plants, than 
what obtains in animals. A solution is wanted for one, 
as well as the other. 

Upon the whole ; after all the schemes and struggles 
of a reluctant philosophy, the necessary resort is to a 


Deity. The marks of design are too strong to be 
gotten over. Design must have had a designer. That 
designer must have been a person. That person is 



It is an immense conclusion, that there is a God ; a 
perceiving, intelligent, designing Being; at the head of 
creation, and from whose will it proceeded. The at- 
tributes of such a Being, suppose his reality to be 
proved, must be adequate to the magnitude, extent, 
and multiplicity of his operations: which are not only 
vast beyond comparison with those performed by any 
other power ; but, so far as respects our conceptions of 
them, infinite, because they are unlimited on all sides. 

Yet the contemplation of a nature so exalted, how- 
ever surely we arrive at the proof of its existence, over- 
whelms our faculties. The mind feels its powers sink 
under the subject. One consequence of which is, that 
from painful abstraction the thoughts seek relief in 
sensible images. Whence may be deduced the ancient, 
and almost universal propensity to idolatrous substitu- 
tions. They are the resources of a labouring imagina- 
tion. False religions usually fall in with the natural 
propensity, true religions, or such as have derived 
themselves from the true, resist it. 

It is one of the advantages of the revelations which 
we acknowledge, that, whilst they reject idolatry with 
its many pernicious accompaniments, they introduce the 

x 2 


Deity to human apprehension, under an idea more per- 
sonal, more determinate, more within its compass, than 
the theology of nature can do. And this they do by 
representing him exclusively under the relation in which 
he stands to ourselves; and, for the most part, under 
some precise character, resulting from that relation, or 
from the history of his providences: which method 
suits the span of our intellects much better than the 
universality which enters into the idea of God, as de- 
duced from the views of nature. When, therefore, these 
representations are well founded in point of authority 
(for all depends upon that), they afford a condescension 
to the state of our faculties, of which, they who have 
most reflected on the subject, will be the first to ac- 
knowledge the want and the value. 

Nevertheless, if we be careful to imitate the docu- 
ments of our religion, by confining our explanations to 
what concerns ourselves, and do not affect more pre- 
cision in our ideas than the subject allows of, the several 
terms which are employed to denote the attributes of 
the Deity may be made, even in natural religion, to 
bear a sense consistent with truth and reason, and not 
surpassing our comprehension. 

These terms are ; Omnipotence, omniscience, omni- 
presence, eternity, self-existence, necessary existence, 

" Omnipotence," "omniscience," "infinite" power, 
"infinite" knowledge, are superlatives ; expressing our 
conception of these attributes in the strongest and most 
elevated terms which language supplies. We ascribe 
power to the Deity under the name of " omnipotence," 
the strict and correct conclusion being, that a power 
which could create such a world as this is, must be, 
beyond all comparison, greater than any which we 


experience in ourselves, than any which we observe in 
other visible agents; greater also than any which we 
can want, for our individual protection and preserva- 
tion, in the Being upon whom we depend. It is a 
power, likewise, to which we are not authorised, by our 
observation or knowledge, to assign any limits of space 
or duration. 

Very much of the same sort of remark is applicable 
to the term " omniscience,'* infinite knowledge, or in- 
finite wisdom. In strictness of language, there is a 
difference between knowledge and wisdom; wisdom 
always supposing action, and action directed by it. 
With respect to the first, viz. knowledge, the Creator 
must know, intimately, the constitution and properties 
of the things which he created: which seems also to 
imply a foreknowledge of their action upon one another, 
and of their changes ; at least, so far as the same result 
from trains of physical and necessary causes. His 
omniscience also, as far as respects things present, is 
deducible from his nature, as an intelligent being, 
joined with the extent, or rather the universality, of his 
operations. Where he acts, he is ; and where he is, he 
perceives. The wisdom of the Deity, as testified in the 
works of creation, surpasses all idea we have of wisdom, 
drawn from the highest intellectual operations of the 
highest class of intelligent beings with whom we are 
acquainted; and, which is of the chief importance to us, 
whatever be its compass or extent, which it is evidently 
impossible that we should be able to determine, it must 
be adequate to the conduct of that order of things under 
which we live. And this is enough. It % is of very 
inferior consequence, by what terms we express our 
notion, or rather our admiration, of this attribute. 
The terms, which the piety and the usage of language 


have rendered habitual to us, may be as proper as any 
other* We can trace this attribute much beyond what 
is necessary for any conclusion to which we have occa- 
sion to apply it. The degree of knowledge and power 
requisite for the formation of created nature cannot, 
with respect to us, be distinguished from infinite. 

The Divine " omnipresence" stands, in natural theo- 
logy, upon this foundation : — In every part and place 
of the universe with which we are acquainted, we per- 
ceive the exertion of a power, which we believe, medi- 
ately or immediately, to proceed from the Deity. For 
instance; in what part or point of space, that has ever 
been explored, do we not discover attraction? In what 
regions do we not find light? In what accessible por- 
tion of our globe, do we not meet with gravity, mag- 
netism, electricity: together with the properties also 
and powers of organised substances, of vegetable or of 
animated nature? Nay, farther, we may ask, What 
kingdom is there of nature, what corner of space, in 
which there is any thing that can be examined by us, 
where we do not fall upon contrivance and design? 
The only reflection perhaps which arises in our minds 
from this view of the world around us is, that the laws 
of nature every where prevail; that they are uniform 
and universal. But what do you mean by the laws of 
nature, or by any law? Effects are produced by power, 
not by laws. A law cannot execute itself. A law re- 
fers us to an agent. Now an agency so general, as 
that we cannot discover its absence, or assign the place 
in which some effect of its continued energy is not 
found, may, in popular language at least, and, perhaps, 
without much deviation from philosophical strictness, 
be called universal : and, with not quite the same, but 
with no inconsiderable propriety, the person, or Being, 


in whom that power resides, or from whom it is derived, 
may be taken to be omnipresent. He who upholds all 
things by his power, may be said to be every where 

This is called a virtual presence. There is also what 
metaphysicians denominate an essential ubiquity; and 
which idea the language of Scripture seems to favour: 
but the former, I think, goes as far as natural theology 
carries us. 

" Eternity" is a negative idea, clothed with a positive 
name. It supposes, in that to which it is applied, a 
present existence ; and is the negation of a beginning 
or an end of that existence. As applied to the Deity, 
it has not been controverted by those who acknowledge 
a Deity at all. Most assuredly, there never was a time 
in which nothing existed, because that condition must 
have continued. The universal blank must have re- 
mained ; nothing could rise up out of it ; nothing 
could ever have existed since; nothing could exist 
now. In strictness, however, we have no concern with 
duration prior to that of the visible world. Upon this 
article therefore of theology, it is sufficient to know, 
that the contriver necessarily existed before the con- 

" Self-existence" is another negative idea, viz. the 
negation of a preceding cause, as of a progenitor, a 
maker, an author, a creator. 

" Necessary existence" means demonstrable existence. 

" Spirituality" expresses an idea, made up of a ne- 
gative part, and of a positive part. The negative part 
consists in the exclusion of some of the known proper- 
ties of matter, especially of solidity, of the vis inertice, 
and of gravitation. The positive part comprises per- 
ception, thought, will, power, action, by which last 


term is meant, the origination of motion ; the quality, 
perhaps, in which resides the essential superiority of 
spirit over matter, " which cannot move, unless it be 
moved; and cannot but move, when impelled by an- 
other*." I apprehend that there can be no difficulty 
in applying to the Deity both parts of this idea. 



Of the " Unity of the Deity," the proof is, the unu 
formity of plan observable in the universe. The uni- 
verse itself is a system ; each part either depending 
upon other parts, or being connected with other parts 
by some common law of motion, or by the presence of 
some common substance. One principle of gravitation 
causes a stone to drop towards the earth, and the moon 
to wheel round it. One law of attraction carries all 
the different planets about the sun. This philosophers 
demonstrate. There are also other points of agree- 
ment amongst them, which may be considered as marks 
of the identity of their origin, and of their intelligent 
Author. In all are found the conveniency and sta- 
bility derived from gravitation. They all experience 
vicissitudes of days and nights, and changes of season. 
They all, at least Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, have the 
same advantages from their atmosphere as we have. In 
all the planets, the axes of rotation are permanent. 
Nothing is more probable than that the same attracting 
influence, acting according to the same rule, reaches to 
the fixed stars : but, if this be only probable, another 
* Bishop Wilkins's Principles of Natural Religion^ p. 106. 


thing is certain, viz. that the same element of light 
does. The light from a fixed star affects our eyes in 
the same manner, is refracted and reflected according 
to the same laws, as the light of a candle. The velo- 
city of the light of the fixed stars is also the same as 
the velocity of the light of the sun, reflected from the 
satellites of Jupiter. The heat of the sun, in kind, 
differs nothing from the heat of a coal fire. 

In our own globe, the case is clearer. New coun- 
tries are continually discovered, but the old laws of na- 
ture are always found in them: new plants, perhaps, 
or animals, but always in company with plants and 
animals which we already know ; and always possessing 
many of the same general properties. We never get 
amongst such original, or totally different, modes of 
existence, as to indicate, that we are come into the 
province of a different Creator, or under the direction 
of a different will. In truth, the same order of things 
attends us, wherever we go. The elements act upon 
one another, electricity operates, the tides rise and fall, 
the magnetic needle elects its position, in one region 
of the earth and sea, as well as in another. One at- 
mosphere invests all parts of the globe, and connects 
all; one sun illuminates, one moon exerts, its specific 
attraction upon all parts. If there be a variety in na- 
tural effects, as, e. g. in the tides of different seas, that 
very variety is the result of the same cause, acting 
under different circumstances. In many cases this is 
proved ; in all, is probable. 

The inspection and comparison of living forms add 
to this argument examples without number. Of all 
large terrestrial animals, the structure is very much 
alike; their senses nearly the same; their natural func- 
tions and passions nearly the same ; their viscera nearly 


the same, both in substance, shape, and office: di- 
gestion, nutrition, circulation, secretion, go on, in a 
similar manner, in all: the great circulating fluid is 
the same; for, I think, no difference has been disco- 
vered in the properties of blood, from whatever animal 
it be drawn. The experiment of transfusion proves, 
that the blood of one animal will serve for another. 
The skeletons also of the larger terrestrial animals, 
show particular varieties, but still under a great general 
affinity. The resemblance is somewhat less, yet suf- 
ficiently evident, between quadrupeds and birds. They 
are all alike in five respects, for one in which they differ. 

In fish, which belong to another department, as it 
were, of nature, the points of comparison become fewer. 
But we never lose sight of our analogy, e, g. we still 
meet with a stomach, a liver, a spine; with bile and 
blood; with teeth; with eyes (which eyes are only 
slightly varied from our own, and which variation, in 
truth, demonstrates, not an interruption, but a con- 
tinuance of the same exquisite plan; for it is the 
adaptation of the organ to the element, viz. to the dif- 
ferent refraction of light passing into the eye out of a 
denser medium). The provinces, also, themselves of 
water and earth, are connected by the species of ani- 
mals which inhabit both; and also by a large tribe of 
aquatic animals, which closely resemble the terres- 
trial in their internal structure; I mean the cetaceous 
tribe, which have hot blood, respiring lungs, bowels, 
and other essential parts, like those of land-animals. 
This similitude, surely, bespeaks the same creation and 
the same Creator. 

Insects and shell-fish appear to me to differ from 
other classes of animals the most widely of any. Yet 
even here, beside many points of particular resemblance, 


there exists a general relation of a peculiar kind. It 
is the relation of inversion; the law of contrariety; 
namely, that, whereas, in other animals, the bones, to 
which the muscles are attached, lie within the body; 
in insects and shell-fish, they lie on the outside of it. 
The shell of a lobster performs to the animal the office 
of a bone, by furnishing to the tendons that fixed basis 
or immovable fulcrum, without which, mechanically, 
they could not act. The crust of an insect is its shell, 
and answers the like purpose. The shell also of an 
oyster stands in the place of a bone; the bases of the 
muscles being fixed to it, in the same manner as, in 
other animals, they are fixed to the bones. All which 
(under wonderful varieties, indeed, and adaptations of 
form) confesses an imitation, a remembrance, a carrying 
on, of the same plan. 

The observations here made, are equally applicable 
to plants ; but, I think, unnecessary to be pursued. It 
is a very striking circumstance, and alone sufficient to 
prove all which we contend for, that, in this part like- 
wise of organised nature, we perceive a continuation of 
the sexual system. 

Certain however it is, that the whole argument for 
the divine unity, goes no farther than to an unity of 

It may likewise be acknowledged, that no arguments 
which we are in possession of, exclude the ministry of 
subordinate agents. If such there be, they act under a 
presiding, a controlling will ; because they act according 
to certain general restrictions, by certain common rules, 
and, as it should seem, upon a general plan: but still 
such agents, and different ranks, and classes, and de- 
grees of them, may be employed. 




The proof of the divine goodness rests upon two 
propositions: each, as we contend, capable of being 
made out by observations drawn from the appearances 
of nature. 

The first is, " that in a vast plurality of instances in 
which contrivance is perceived, the design of the con- 
trivance is beneficial" 

The second, " that the Deity has superadded plea- 
sure to animal sensations, beyond what was necessary 
for any other purpose, or when the purpose, so far as it 
was necessary, might have been effected by the ope- 
ration of pain." 

First, " in a vast plurality of instances in which con- 
trivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is 

No productions of nature display contrivance so 
manifestly as the parts of animals; and the parts of 
animals have all of them, I believe, a real, and, with 
very few exceptions, all of them a known and intelligible, 
subserviency to the use of the animal. Now, when the 
multitude of animals is considered, the number of parts 
in each, their figure and fitness, the faculties depending 
upon them, the variety of species, the complexity of 
structure, the success, in so many cases, and felicity of 
the result, we can never reflect, without the profoundest 
adoration, upon the character of that Being from whom 
all these things have proceeded: we cannot help ac- 
knowledging, what an exertion of benevolence creation 
was; of a benevolence how minute in its care, how vast 
in its comprehension ! 


When we appeal to the parts and faculties of animals, 
and to the limbs and senses of animals in particular, we 
state, I conceive, the proper medium of proof for the 
conclusion which we wish to establish. I will not say, 
that the insensible parts of nature are made solely for 
the sensitive parts: but this I say, that, when we con- 
sider the benevolence of the Deity, we can only consider 
it in relation to sensitive being. Without this refer- 
ence, or referred to any thing else, the attribute has no 
object ; the term has no meaning. Dead matter is no- 
thing. The parts, therefore, especially the limbs and 
senses, of animals, although they constitute, in mass 
and quantity, a small portion of the material creation, 
yet, since they alone are instruments of perception, they 
compose what may be called the whole of visible nature, 
estimated with a view to the disposition of its Author. 
Consequently, it is in these that we are to seek his cha- 
racter. It is by these that we are to prove, that the 
world was made with a benevolent design. 

Nor is the design abortive. It is a happy world 
after all. The air, the earth, the water, teem with 
delighted existence. In a spring noon, or a summer 
evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of 
happy beings crowd upon my view. " The insect youth 
are on the wing." Swarms of new-born flies are trying 
their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their 
wanton mazes, their gratuitous activity, their continual 
change of place without use or purpose, testify their joy, 
and the exultation which they feel in their lately dis- 
covered faculties. A bee amongst the flowers in spring, 
is one of the most cheerful objects that can be looked 
upon. Its life appears to be all enjoyment ; so busy, 
and so pleased ; yet it is only a specimen of insect life, 
with which, by reason of the animal being half do- 


mesticated, we happen to be better acquainted than we 
are with that of others. The whole winged insect tribe, 
it is probable, are equally intent upon their proper 
employments, and under every variety of constitution, 
gratified, and perhaps equally gratified, by the offices 
which the Author of their nature has assigned to them. 
But the atmosphere is not the only scene of enjoyment 
for the insect race. Plants are covered with aphides, 
greedily sucking their juices, and constantly, as it should 
seem, in the act of sucking. It cannot be doubted but 
that this is a state of gratification. What else should 
fix them so close to the operation, and so long? Other 
species are running' about, with an alacrity in their 
motions, which carries with it every mark of pleasure. 
Large patches of ground are sometimes half covered with 
these brisk and sprightly natures. If we look to what 
the waters produce, shoals of the fry offish frequent the 
margins of rivers, of lakes, and of the sea itself. These 
are so happy, that they know not what to do with them- 
selves. Their attitudes, their vivacity, their leaps out 
of the water, their frolics in it (which I have noticed a 
thousand times with equal attention and amusement), 
all conduce to show their excess of spirits, and are simply 
the effects of that excess. Walking by the sea-side, in 
a calm evening, upon a sandy shore, and with an ebbing 
tide, I have frequently remarked the appearance of a 
dark cloud, or, rather, very thick mist, hanging over 
the edge of the water, to the height, perhaps, of half a 
yard, and of the breadth of two or three yards, stretch- 
ing along the coast as far as the eye could reach, and 
always retiring with the water. When this cloud came 
to be examined, it proved to be nothing else than so 
much space, filled with young shrimps, in the act of 
bounding into the air from the shallow margin of the 


water, or from the wet sand. If any motion of a mute 
animal could express delight, it was this: if they had 
meant to make signs of their happiness, they could not 
have done it more intelligibly. Suppose, then, what I 
have no doubt of, each individual of this number to be 
in a state of positive enjoyment; what a sum, col- 
lectively, of gratification and pleasure have we here 
before our view ! 

The young of all animals appear to me to receive 
pleasure simply from the exercise of their limbs and 
bodily faculties, without reference to any end to be at- 
tained, or any use to be answered by the exertion. A 
child, without knowing any thing of the use of language, 
is in a high degree delighted with being able to speak. 
Its incessant repetition of a few articulate sounds, or, 
perhaps, of the single word which it has learnt to pro- 
nounce, proves this point clearly. Nor is it less pleased 
with its first successful endeavours to walk, or rather to 
run (which precedes walking), although entirely igno- 
rant of the importance of the attainment to its future 
life, and even without applying it to any present pur- 
pose. A child is delighted with speaking, without 
having any thing to say, and with walking, without 
knowing where to go. And, prior to both these, I am 
disposed to believe, that the waking hours of infancy 
are agreeably taken up with the exercise of vision, or 
perhaps, more properly speaking, with learning to see. 

But it is not for youth alone that the great Parent of 
creation hath provided. Happiness is found with the 
purring cat, no less than with the playful kitten ; in the 
arm-chair of dozing age, as well as in either the spright- 
liness of the dance, or the animation of the chase. To 
novelty, to acuteness of sensation, to hope, to ardour of 
pursuit, succeeds, what is, in no inconsiderable degree, 


an equivalent for them all, " perception of ease." 
Herein is the exact difference between the young and 
the old. The young are not happy, but when enjoying 
pleasure ; the old are happy, when free from pain. And 
this constitution suits with the degrees of animal power 
which they respectively possess. The vigour of youth 
was to be stimulated to action by impatience of rest; 
whilst to the imbecility of age, quietness and repose 
become positive gratifications. In one important respect 
the advantage is with the old. A state of ease is, 
generally speaking, more attainable than a state of 
pleasure. A constitution, therefore, which can enjoy 
ease, is preferable to that which can taste only pleasure. 
This same perception of ease oftentimes renders old age 
a condition of great comfort ; especially when riding at 
its anchor after a busy or tempestuous life. It is well 
described by Rousseau, to be the interval of repose and 
enjoyment, between the hurry and the end of life. 
How far the same cause extends to other animal natures, 
cannot be judged of with certainty. The appearance of 
satisfaction, with which most animals, as their activity 
subsides, seek and enjoy rest, affords reason to believe, 
that this source of gratification is appointed to advanced 
life, under all, or most, of its various forms. In the 
species with which we are best acquainted, namely our 
own, I am far, even as an observer of human life, from 
thinking that youth is its happiest season, much less the 
only happy one : as a Christian, I am willing to believe 
that there is a great deal of truth in the following re- 
presentation given by a very pious writer, as well as 
excellent man*: " To the intelligent and virtuous, old 
age presents a scene of tranquil enjoyments, of obedient 

* Father's Instructions ; by Dr. Percival of Manchester, p. 3 1 7- 


appetite, of well-regulated affections, of maturity in 
knowledge, and of calm preparation for immortality. 
In this serene and dignified state, placed as it were on 
the confines of two worlds, the mind of a good man re- 
views what is past with the complacency of an approving 
conscience; and looks forward, with humble confidence 
in the mercy of God, and with devout aspirations to- 
wards his eternal and ever-increasing favour." 

What is seen in different stages of the same life, is 
still more exemplified in the lives of different animals. 
Animal enjoyments are infinitely diversified. The 
modes of life, to which the organisation of different 
animals respectively determines them, are not only of 
various but of opposite kinds. Yet each is happy in its 
own. For instance: animals of prey live much alone; 
animals of a milder constitution in society. Yet the 
herring, which lives in shoals, and the sheep, which 
lives in flocks, are not more happy in a crowd, or more 
contented amongst their companions, than is the pike, 
or the lion, with the deep solitudes of the pool, or the 

But it will be said, that the instances which we have 
here brought forward, whether of vivacity or repose, or 
of apparent enjoyment derived from either, are picked 
and favourable instances. We answer, first, that they 
are instances, nevertheless, which comprise large pro- 
vinces of sensitive existence ; that every case which we 
have described, is the case of millions. At this moment, 
in every given moment of time, how many myriads of 
animals are eating their food, gratifying their appetites, 
ruminating in their holes, accomplishing their washes, 
pursuing their pleasures, taking their pastimes ! In each 
individual, how many things must go right for it to be 
at ease; yet how large a proportion out of every species 

vol. iv. y 


is so in every assignable instant! Secondly, we contend, 
in the terms of our original proposition, that throughout 
the whole of life, as it is diffused in nature, and as far 
as we are acquainted with it, looking to the average of 
sensations, the plurality and the preponderancy is in 
favour of happiness by a vast excess. In our own 
species, in which perhaps the assertion may be more 
questionable than in any other, the prepollency of good 
over evil, of health, for example, and ease, over pain 
and distress, is evinced by the very notice which ca- 
lamities excite. What inquiries does the sickness of 
our friends produce! what conversation their misfor- 
tunes ! This shows that the common course of things is 
in favour of happiness; that happiness is the rule, 
misery the exception. Were the order reversed, our 
attention would be called to examples of health and 
competency, instead of disease and want. 

One great cause of our insensibility to the goodness 
of the Creator, is the very extensiveness of his bounty. 
We prize but little what we share only in common with 
the rest, or with the generality of our species. When 
we hear of blessings, we think forthwith of successes, of 
prosperous fortunes, of honours, riches, preferments, 
i. e. of those advantages and superiorities over others, 
which we happen either to possess, or to be in pursuit 
of, or to covet. The common benefits of our nature 
entirely escape us. Yet these are the great things. 
These constitute what most properly ought to be ac- 
counted blessings of Providence; what alone, if we 
might so speak, are worthy of its care. Nightly rest 
and daily bread, the ordinary use of our limbs, and 
senses, and understandings, are gifts which admit of no 
comparison with any other. Yet, because almost every 
man we meet with possesses these, we leave them out of 


our enumeration. They raise no sentiment; they 
move no gratitude. Now, herein, is our judgement 
perverted by our selfishness. A blessing ought in truth 
to be the more satisfactory, the bounty at least of the 
donor is rendered more conspicuous, by its very dif- 
fusion, its commonness, its cheapness : by its falling to 
the lot, and forming the happiness, of the great bulk 
and body of our species, as well as of ourselves. Nay, 
even when we do not possess it, it ought to be matter 
of thankfulness that others do. But we have a different 
way of thinking. We court distinction. That is not 
the worst : we see nothing but what has distinction to 
recommend it. This necessarily contracts our views of 
the Creator's beneficence within a narrow compass ; and 
most unjustly. It is in those things which are so 
common as to be no distinction, that the amplitude of 
the Divine benignity is perceived. 

But pain, no doubt, and privations exist, in numerous 
instances, and to a degree, which, collectively, would be 
very great, if they were compared with any. other thing 
than with the mass of animal fruition. For the appli- 
cation, therefore, of our proposition to that mixed state 
of things which these exceptions induce, two rules are 
necessary, and both, I think, just and fair rules. One 
is, that we regard those effects alone which are accom- 
panied with proofs of intention : The other, that when 
we cannot resolve all appearances into benevolence of 
design, we make the few give place to the many; the 
little to the great; that we take our judgement from a 
large and decided preponderancy, if there be one. 

I crave leave to transcribe into this place, what I 
have said upon this subject in my Moral Philosophy : — 

"When God created the human species, either he 

y 2 


wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he 
was indifferent and unconcerned about either. 

" If he had wished our misery, he might have made 
sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many 
sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of 
gratification and enjoyment : or by placing us amidst 
objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have con- 
tinually offended us, instead of ministering to our re- 
freshment and delight. He might have made, for 
example, every thing we tasted, bitter ; every thing we 
saw, loathsome ; every thing we touched, a sting ; every 
smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord. 

" If he had been indifferent about our happiness or 
misery, we must impute to our good fortune (as all de- 
sign by this supposition is excluded) both the capacity 
of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of ex- 
ternal objects fitted to produce it. 

" But either of these, and still more both of them, 
being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing 
remains but the first supposition, that God, when he 
created the human species, wished their happiness ; and 
made for them the provision which he has made, with 
that view and for that purpose. 

" The same argument may be proposed in different 
terms .; thus : Contrivance proves design : and the pre- 
dominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the 
disposition of the designer. The world abounds with 
contrivances: and all the contrivances which we are 
acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. 
Evil, no doubt, exists; but is never, that we can per- 
ceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived 
to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is 
incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from 


it; or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the 
contrivance : but it is not the object of it. This is a 
distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In 
describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly 
say of the sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's 
hand: though from the construction of the instrument, 
and the manner of using it, this mischief often follows. 
But if you had occasion to describe instruments of 
torture, or execution : this engine, you would say, is to 
extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints; this to 
break the bones; this to scorch the soles of the feet. 
Here, pain and misery are the very objects of the con- 
trivance. Now, nothing of this sort is to be found in 
the works of nature. We never discover a train of con- 
trivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist 
ever discovered a system of organisation calculated to pro- 
duce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the 
human body, ever said, this is to irritate; this to in- 
flame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; 
this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout : 
if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not 
the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no 
one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to 
annoy, or to torment." 

The two cases which appear to me to have the most 
difficulty in them, as forming the most of the appear- 
ance of exception to the representation here given, are 
those of venomous animals, and of animals preying 
upon one another. These properties of animals, where- 
ever they are found, must, I think, be referred to 
design; because there is in all cases of the first, and in 
most cases of the second, an express and distinct or- 
ganisation provided for the producing of them. Under 
the first head, the fangs of vipers, the stings of wasps 


and scorpions, are as clearly intended for their purpose, 
as any animal structure is for any purpose the most 
incontestably beneficial. And the same thing must, 
under the second head, be acknowledged of the talons 
and beaks of birds, of the tusks, teeth, and claws of 
beasts of prey ; of the shark's mouth, of the spider's web, 
and of numberless weapons of offence belonging to dif- 
ferent tribes of voracious insects. We cannot, therefore, 
avoid the difficulty by saying, that the effect was not 
intended. The only question open to us is, whether it 
be ultimately evil. From the confessed and felt im- 
perfection of our knowledge, we ought to presume, 
that there may be consequences of this csconomy which 
are hidden from us: from the benevolence which per- 
vades the general designs of nature, we ought also to 
presume, that these consequences, if they could enter 
into our calculation, would turn the balance on the 
favourable side. Both these I contend to be reasonable 
presumptions. Not reasonable presumptions, if these 
two cases were the only cases which nature presented to 
our observation; but reasonable presumptions under 
the reflection, that the cases in question are combined 
with a multitude of intentions, all proceeding from the 
same author, and all, except these, directed to ends of 
undisputed utility. Of the vindications, however, of 
this oeconomy, which we are able to assign, such as most 
extenuate the difficulty are the following. 

With respect to venomous bites and stings, it may be 
observed, — 

1* That, the animal itself being regarded, the faculty 
complained of is good: being conducive, in all cases, 
to the defence of the animal ; in some cases, to the sub- 
duing of its prey; and in some, probably, to the killing 
of it, when caught, by a mortal wound, inflicted in the 


passage to the stomach, which may be no less merciful 
to the victim, than salutary to the devourer. In the 
viper, for instance, the poisonous fang may do that 
which, in other animals of prey, is done by the crush of 
the teeth. Frogs and mice might be swallowed alive 
without it. 

2. But it will be said, that this provision, when it 
comes to the case of bites, deadly even to human bodies 
and to those of large quadrupeds, is greatly overdone; 
that it might have fulfilled its use, and yet have been 
much less deleterious than it is. Now I believe the 
case of bites, which produce death in large animals (of 
stings 1 think there are none) to be very few. The 
experiments of the Abbe" Fontana, which were nu- 
merous, go strongly to the proof of this point. He 
found that it required the action of ^\e exasperated 
vipers to kill a dog of a moderate size ; but that, to the 
killing of a mouse or a frog, a single bite was sufficient; 
which agrees with the use which we assign to the faculty. 
The Abbe seemed to be of opinion, that the bite even 
of the rattle-snake would not usually be mortal; al- 
lowing, however, that in certain particularly unfortunate 
cases, as when the puncture had touched some very 
tender part, pricked a principal nerve for instance, or, 
as it is said, some more considerable lymphatic vessel, 
death might speedily ensue. 

3. It has been, I think, very justly remarked, con- 
cerning serpents ; that, whilst only a few species possess 
the venomous property, that property guards the whole 
tribe. The most innocuous snake is avoided with as 
much care as a viper. Now the terror with which large 
animals regard this class of reptiles, is its protection \ 
and this terror is founded on the formidable revenge, 
which a few of the number, compared with the whole, 


are capable of taking. The species of serpents, de- 
scribed by Linnaeus, amount to two hundred and 
eighteen, of which thirty-two only are poisonous. 

4. It seems to me, that animal constitutions are pro- 
vided, not only for each element, but for each state of 
the elements, i. e. for every climate, and for every tem- 
perature; and that part of the mischief complained of, 
arises from animals (the human animal most especially) 
occupying situations upon the earth, which do not 
belong to them, nor were ever intended for their habi- 
tation. The folly and wickedness of mankind, and 
necessities proceeding from these causes, have driven 
multitudes of the species to seek a refuge amongst 
burning sands, whilst countries, blessed with hospitable 
skies, and with the most fertile soils, remain almost 
without a human tenant. We invade the territories of 
wild beasts and venomous reptiles, and then complain 
that we are infested by their bites and stings. Some 
accounts of Africa place this observation in a strong 
point of view. " The deserts," says Adanson, " are 
entirely barren, except where they are found to produce 
serpents; and in such quantities, that some extensive 
plains are almost entirely covered with them." These 
are the natures appropriated to the situation. Let 
them enjoy their existence ; let them have their country. 
Surface enough will be left to man, though his numbers 
were increased a hundred-fold, and left to him, where 
he might live, exempt from these annoyances. 

The second case, vi%. that of animals devouring 
one another, furnishes a consideration of much larger 
extent. To judge whether, as a general provision, this 
can be deemed an evil, even so far as we understand its 
consequences, which, probably, is a partial understanding, 
the following reflections are fit to be attended to. 


1. Immortality upon this earth is out of the question. 
Without death there could be no generation, no sexes, 
no parental relation, i. e. as things are constituted, no 
animal happiness. The particular duration of life, as- 
signed to different animals, can form no part of the 
objection ; because, whatever that duration be, whilst it 
remains finite and limited, it may always be asked, why 
it is no longer. The natural age of different animals 
varies, from a single day to a century of years. No 
account can be given of this; nor could any be given, 
whatever other proportion of life had obtained amongst 

The term then of life in different animals being the 
same as it is, the question is, what mode of taking it 
away is the best even for the animal itself. 

Now, according to the established order of nature 
(which we must suppose to prevail, or we cannot reason 
at all upon the subject), the three methods by which 
life is usually put an end to, are acute diseases, decay, 
and violence. The simple and natural life of brutes, is 
not often visited by acute distempers ; nor could it be 
deemed an improvement of their lot, if they were. Let 
it be considered, therefore, in what a condition of suf- 
fering and misery a brute animal is placed, which is left 
to perish by decay. In human sickness or infirmity, 
there is the assistance of man's rational fellow-creatures, 
if not to alleviate his pains, at least to minister to his 
necessities, and to supply the place of his own activity. 
A brute, in his wild and natural state, does every thing 
for himself. When his strength, therefore, or his speed, 
or his limbs, or his senses fail him, he is delivered over, 
either to absolute famine, or to the protracted wretched- 
ness of a life slowly wasted by the scarcity of food. Is 
it then to see the world filled with drooping, superan- 


nuated, half-starved, helpless, and imhelped animals, 
that you would alter the present system of pursuit and 

2. Which system is also to them the spring of motion 
and activity on both sides. The pursuit of its prey 
forms the employment, and appears to constitute the 
pleasure, of a considerable part of the animal creation. 
The using of the means of defence, or flight, or pre- 
caution, forms also the business of another part. And 
even of this latter tribe, we have no reason to suppose, 
that their happiness is much molested by their fears. 
Their danger exists continually; and in some cases 
they seem to be so far sensible of it, as to provide, in the 
best manner they can, against it; but it is only when 
the attack is actually made upon them, that they appear 
to suffer from it. To contemplate the insecurity of 
their condition with anxiety and dread, requires a de- 
gree of reflection, which (happily for themselves) they 
do not possess. A hare, notwithstanding the number 
of its dangers and its enemies, is as playful an animal as 
any other. 

3. But, to do justice to the question, the system of 
animal destruction ought always to be considered in 
strict connexion with another property of animal nature, 
viz. superfecundity. They are countervailing qualities. 
One subsists by the correction of the other. In treating, 
therefore, of the subject under this view, (which is, I 
believe, the true one), our business will be, first, to 
point out the advantages which are gained by the 
powers in nature of a superabundant multiplication : 
and, then, to show, that these advantages are so many 
reasons for appointing that system of national hostilities, 
which we are endeavouring to account for. 

In almost all cases, nature produces her supplies with 


profusion. A single cod-fish spawns, in one season, a 
greater number of eggs, than all the inhabitants of 
England amount to. A thousand other instances of 
prolific generation might be stated, which, though not 
equal to this, would carry on the increase of the species 
with a rapidity which outruns calculation, and to an 
immeasurable extent. The advantages of such a con- 
stitution are two : first, that it tends to keep the world 
always full; whilst, secondly, it allows the proportion 
between the several species of animals to be differently 
modified, as different purposes require, or as different 
situations may afford for them room and food. Where 
this vast fecundity meets with a vacancy fitted to receive 
the species, there it operates with its whole effect; there 
it pours in its numbers, and replenishes the waste. We 
complain of what we call the exorbitant multiplication 
of some troublesome insects; not reflecting, that large 
portions of nature might be left void without it. If the 
accounts of travellers may be depended upon, immense 
tracts of forests in North America would be nearly lost 
to sensitive existence, if it were not for gnats. " In 
the thinly inhabited regions of America, in which the 
waters stagnate and the climate is warm, the whole air 
is filled with crowds of these insects." Thus it is, that 
where we looked for solitude and death-like silence, we 
meet with animation, activity, enjoyment ; with a busy, 
a happy, and a peopled world. Again; hosts of mice 
are reckoned amongst the plagues of the north-east part 
of Europe ; whereas vast plains in Siberia, as we learn 
from good authority, would be lifeless without them. 
The Caspian deserts are converted by their presence 
into crowds of warrens. Between the Volga and the 
Yaik, and in the country of Hyrcania, the ground, says 
Pallas, is in many places covered with little hills, raised 


by the earth cast out in forming the burrows. Do we 
so envy these blissful abodes, as to pronounce the fecun- 
dity by which they are supplied with inhabitants, to be 
an evil; a subject of complaint, and not of praise? 
Farther; by virtue of this same superfecundity, what 
we term destruction becomes almost instantly the 
parent of life. What we call blights, are oftentimes 
legions of animated beings, claiming their portion in 
the bounty of nature. What corrupts the produce of 
the earth to us, prepares it for them. And it is by 
means of their rapid multiplication, that they take pos- 
session of their pasture ; a slow propagation would not 
meet the opportunity. 

But in conjunction with the occasional use of this 
fruitfulness, we observe, also, that it allows the pro- 
portion between the several species of animals to be 
differently modified, as different purposes of utility may 
require. When the forests of America come to be 
cleared, and the swamps drained, our gnats will give 
place to other inhabitants. If the population of Europe 
should spread to the north and the east, the mice will 
retire before the husbandman and the shepherd, and 
yield their station to herds and flocks. In what con- 
cerns the human species, it may be a part of the scheme 
of Providence, that the earth should be inhabited by a 
shifting, or perhaps a circulating population. In this 
ceconomy, it is possible that there may be the following 
advantages : When old countries are become exceedingly 
corrupt, simpler modes of life, purer morals, and better 
institutions, may rise up in new ones, whilst fresh soils 
reward the cultivator with more plentiful returns. Thus 
the different portions of the globe come into use in suc- 
cession as the residence of man ; and, in his absence, 
entertain other guests, which, by their sudden multipli- 


cation, fill the chasm. In domesticated animals, we 
find the effect of their fecundity to be, that we can 
always command numbers; we can always have as many 
of any particular species as we please, or as we can 
support, Nor do we complain of its excess ; it being 
much more easy to regulate abundance, than to supply 

But then this superfecundity, though of great oc- 
casional use and importance, exceeds the ordinary ca- 
pacity of nature to receive or support its progeny. All 
superabundance supposes destruction, or must destroy 
itself. Perhaps there is no species of terrestrial animals 
whatever, which would not overrun the earth, if it were 
permitted to multiply in perfect safety; or offish, which 
would not fill the ocean : at least, if any single species 
were left to their natural increase without disturbance 
or restraint, the food of other species would be exhausted 
by their maintenance. It is necessary, therefore, that 
the effects of such prolific faculties be curtailed. In 
conjunction with other checks and limits, all subservient 
to the same purpose, are the thinnings which take place 
among animals, by their action upon one another. In 
some instances we ourselves experience, very directly, 
the use of these hostilities. One species of insects rids 
us of another species ; or reduces their ranks. A third 
species, perhaps, keeps the second within bounds: and 
birds or lizards are a fence against the inordinate in- 
crease by which even these last might infest us. In 
other, more numerous, and possibly more important 
instances, this disposition of things, although less ne- 
cessary or useful to us, and of course less observed by 
us, may be necessary and useful to certain other species ; 
or even for the preventing of the loss of certain species 
from the universe: a misfortune which seems to be 


studiously guarded against. Though there may be the 
appearance of failure in some of the details of Nature's 
works, in her great purposes there never are. Her 
species never fail. The provision which was originally 
made for continuing the replenishment of the world, 
has proved itself to be effectual through a long suc- 
cession of ages. 

What farther shows, that the system of destruction 
amongst animals holds an express relation to the system 
of fecundity ; that they are parts indeed of one com- 
pensatory scheme ; is, that, in each species, the fecun- 
dity bears a proportion to the smallness of the animal, 
to the weakness, to the shortness of its natural term of 
life, and to the dangers and enemies by which it is sur- 
rounded. An elephant produces but one calf; a but- 
terfly lays six hundred eggs. Birds of prey seldom 
produce more than two eggs: the sparrow tribe, and 
the duck tribe, frequently sit upon a dozen. In the 
rivers, we meet with a thousand minnows for one pike ; 
in the sea, a million of herrings for a single shark. 
Compensation obtains throughout. Defencelessness 
and devastation are repaired by fecundity. 

We have dwelt the longer on these considerations, 
because the subject to which they apply, namely, that 
of animals devouring one another, forms the chief, if 
not the only instance, in the works of the Deity, of an 
ceconomy, stamped by marks of design, in which the 
character of utility can be called in question. The 
case of venomous animals is of much inferior conse- 
quence to the case of prey, and, in some degree, is also 
included under it. To both cases it is probable that 
many more reasons belong, than those of which we are 
in possession. 

Our first proposition, and that which we have 


hitherto been defending, was, " that, in a vast plurality 
of instances, in which contrivance is perceived, the de- 
sign of the contrivance is beneficial." 

Our second proposition is, " that the Deity has 
added pleasure to animal sensations, beyond what was 
necessary for any other purpose, or when the purpose, 
so far as it was necessary, might have been effected by 
the operation of pain." 

This proposition may be thus explained: The capa- 
cities, which, according to the established course of na- 
ture, are necessary to the support or preservation of an 
animal, however manifestly they may be the result of 
an organisation contrived for the purpose, can only be 
deemed an act or a part of the same will, as that which 
decreed the existence of the animal itself; because, 
whether the creation proceeded from a benevolent or 
a malevolent being, these capacities must have been 
given, if the animal existed at all. Animal properties, 
therefore, which fall under this description, do not 
strictly prove the goodness of God: they may prove 
the existence of the Deity ; they may prove a high de- 
gree of power and intelligence : but they do not prove 
his goodness; forasmuch as they must have been found 
in any creation which was capable of continuance, al- 
though it is possible to suppose, that such a creation 
might have been produced by a being whose views 
rested upon misery. 

But there is a class of properties, which may be said 
to be superadded from an intention expressly directed 
to happiness ; an intention to give a happy existence di- 
stinct from the general intention of providing the means 
of existence ; and that is, of capacities for pleasure, in 
cases wherein, so far as the conservation of the indivi- 
dual or of the species is concerned, they were not 


wanted, or wherein the purpose might have been se- 
cured by the operation of pain. The provision which 
is made of a variety of objects, not necessary to life, 
and ministering only to our pleasures ; and the pro- 
perties given to the necessaries of life themselves, 
by which they contribute to pleasure as well as pre- 
servation ; show a farther design, than that of giving 

A single instance will make all this clear. Assum- 
ing the necessity of food for the support of animal life ; 
it is requisite, that the animal be provided with organs, 
fitted for the procuring, receiving, and digesting of its 
food. It may also be necessary, that the animal be 
impelled by its sensations to exert its organs. But the 
pain of hunger would do all this. Why add pleasure 
to the act of eating; sweetness and relish to food? 
why a new and appropriate sense for the perception of 
the pleasure? Why should the juice of a peach, applied 
to the palate, affect the part so differently from what it 
does when rubbed upon the palm of the hand? This is 
a constitution which, so far as appears to me, can be 
resolved into nothing but the pure benevolence of the 
Creator. Eating is necessary; but the pleasure attend- 
ing it is not necessary: and that this pleasure depends, 
not only^ upon our being in possession of the sense of 
taste, which is different from every other, but upon a 
particular state of the organ in which it resides, a feli- 
citous adaptation of the organ to the object, will be 
confessed by any one, who may happen to have expe- 
rienced that vitiation of taste which frequently occurs 

* See this topic considered in Dr. Balguy's Treatise upon the Di- 
vine Benevolence. This excellent author first, I think, proposed it; 
and nearly in the terms in which it is here stated. Some other ob- 
servations also under this head are taken from that treatise. 


in fevers, when every taste is irregular, and every one 

In mentioning the gratifications of the palate, it may 
be said that we have made choice of a trifling example. 
I am not of that opinion. They afford a share of en- 
joyment to man; but to brutes, I believe that they are 
of very great importance. A horse at liberty passes a 
great part of his waking hours in eating. To the ox, 
the sheep, the deer, and other ruminating animals, the 
pleasure is doubled. Their whole time almost is di- 
vided between browsing upon their pasture and chew- 
ing their cud. Whatever the pleasure be, it is spread 
over a large portion of their existence. If there be 
animals, such as the lupous fish, which swallow their 
prey whole, and at once, without any time, as it should 
seem, for either drawing out, or relishing, the taste in 
the mouth, is it an improbable conjecture, that the seat 
of taste with them is in the stomach ; or, at least, that 
a sense of pleasure, whether it be taste or not, accom- 
panies the dissolution of the food in that receptacle, 
which dissolution in general is carried on very slowly? 
If this opinion be right, they are more than repaid for 
the defect of palate. The feast lasts as long as the 

In seeking for argument, we need not stay to insist 
upon the comparative importance of our example ; for 
the observation holds equally of all, or of three at least, 
of the other senses. The necessary purposes of hearing 
might have been answered without harmony; of smell, 
without fragrance ; of vision, without beauty. Now, 
* 'if the Deity had been indifferent about our happiness 
or misery, we must impute to our good fortune (as all 
design by this supposition is excluded), both the capa- 
city of our senses to receive pleasure, apd the supply of 

VOL. IV. z 


external objects fitted to excite it." I allege these as 
two felicities, for they are different things, yet both ne- 
cessary: the sense being formed, the objects, which 
were applied to it, might not have suited it; the ob- 
jects being fixed, the sense might not have agreed with 
them. A coincidence is here required, which no acci- 
dent can account for. There are three possible sup- 
positions upon the subject, and no more. The first ; that 
the sense, by its original constitution, was made to suit 
the object : The second ; that the object, by its original 
constitution, was made to suit the sense : The third ; 
that the sense is so constituted, as to be able, either 
universally, or within certain limits, by habit and fami- 
liarity, to render every object pleasant. Whichever of 
these suppositions we adopt, the effect evinces, on the 
part of the Author of nature, a studious benevolence. 
If the pleasures which we derive from any of our senses 
depend upon an original congruity between the sense 
and the properties perceived by it, we know by expe- 
rience, that the adjustment demanded, with respect to 
the qualities which were conferred upon the objects that 
surround us, not only choice and selection, out of a 
boundless variety of possible qualities with which these 
objects might have been endued, but a proportioning 
also ofdegree, because an excess or defect of intensity 
spoils the perception, as much almost as an error in the 
kind and nature of the quality. Likewise the degree 
of dulness or acuteness in the sense itself, is no arbitrary 
.thing, but> in order to preserve the congruity here 
spoken of, requires to be in an exact or near corre- 
spondency with the strength of the impression. The 
dulness of the senses forms the complaint of old age. 
Persons in fevers, and, I believe, in most maniacal cases, 
experience great torment from their preternatural acute- 


ness. An increased, no less than an impaired sensi- 
bility, induces a state of disease and suffering. 

The doctrine of a specific congruity between animal 
senses and their objects, is strongly favoured by what 
is observed of insects in the election of their food. 
Some of these will feed upon one kind of plant or ani- 
mal, and upon no other: some caterpillars upon the 
cabbage alone; some upon the black currant alone. 
The species of caterpillar which eats the vine, will 
starve upon the elder; nor will that which we find 
upon fennel, touch the rose-bush. Some insects con- 
fine themselves to two or three kinds of plants or ani- 
mals. Some again show so strong a preference, as to 
afford reason to believe that, though they may be driven 
by hunger to others, they are led by the pleasure of 
taste to a few particular plants alone : and all this, as 
it should seem, independently of habit or imitation. 

But should we accept the third hypothesis, and even 
carry it so far, as to ascribe every thing which concerns 
the question to habit (as in certain species, the human 
species most particularly, there is reason to attribute 
something), we have then before us an animal capacity, 
not less perhaps to be admired than the native congrui- 
ties which the other scheme adopts. It cannot be 
shown to result from any fixed necessity in nature, 
that what is frequently applied to the senses should of 
course become agreeable to them. It is, so far as it 
subsists, a power of accommodation provided in these 
senses by the Author of their structure, and forms a 
part of their perfection. 

In whichever way we regard the senses, they appear 
to be specific gifts, ministering, not only to preserva- 
tion, but to pleasure. But what we usually call the 
senses, are probably themselves far from being the only 

z 2 


vehicles of enjoyment, or the whole of our constitution 
which is calculated for the same purpose. We have 
many internal sensations of the most agreeable kind, 
hardly referable to any of the five senses. Some phy- 
siologists have holden, that all secretion is pleasurable ; 
and that the complacency which in health, without any 
external assignable object to excite it, we derive from 
life itself, is the effect of our secretions going on well 
within us. All this may be true ; but if true, what 
reason can be assigned for it, except the will of the 
Creator? It may reasonably be asked, Why is any 
thing a pleasure? and I know no answer which can be 
returned to the question, but that which refers it to 

We can give no account whatever of our pleasures 
in the simple and original perception ; and, even when 
physical sensations are assumed, we can seldom account 
for them in the secondary and complicated shapes, in 
which they take the name of diversions. I never yet 
met with a sportsman, who could tell me in what the 
sport consisted; who could resolve it into its principle, 
and state that principle. I have been a great follower 
of fishing myself, and in its cheerful solitude have passed 
some of the happiest hours of a sufficiently happy life ; 
but, to this moment, I could never trace out the source 
of the pleasure which it afforded me. 

The "quantum in rebus inane!" whether applied to 
our amusements, or to our graver pursuits (to which, 
in truth, it sometimes equally belongs), is always an 
unjust complaint. If trifles engage, and if trifles make 
us happy, the true reflection suggested by the experi- 
ment, is upon the tendency of nature to gratification 
and enjoyment ; which is, in other words, the goodness 
of its Author towards his sensitive creation. 


Rational natures also, as such, exhibit qualities which 
help to confirm the truth of our position. The degree 
of understanding found in mankind, is usually much 
greater than what is necessary for mere preservation. 
The pleasure of choosing for themselves, and of prose- 
cuting the object of their choice, should seem to be an 
original source of enjoyment. The pleasures received 
from things, great, beautiful, or new, from imitation, 
or from the liberal arts, are, in some measure, not only 
superadded, but unmixed, gratifications, having no pains 
to balance them*. 

I do not know whether our attachment to 'property 
be not something more than the mere dictate of reason, 
or even than the mere effect of association. Property 
communicates a charm to whatever is the object of it. 
It is the first of our abstract ideas ; it cleaves to us the 
closest and the longest. It endears to the child its 
plaything, to the peasant his cottage, to the landholder 
his estate. It supplies the place of prospect and scenery. 
Instead of coveting the beauty of distant situations, it 
teaches every man to find it in his own. It gives bold- 
ness and grandeur to plains and fens, tinge and colour- 
ing to clays and fallows. 

All these considerations come in aid of our second 
proposition. The reader will now bear in mind what 
our two propositions were. They were, firstly, that in 
a vast plurality of instances, in which contrivance is 
perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial: 
secondly, that the Deity has added pleasure to animal 
sensations beyond what was necessary for any other pur- 
pose -, or when the purpose, so far as it was necessary, 
might have been effected by the operation of pain. 

Whilst these propositions can be maintained, we are 
* Balguy on the Divine Benevolence. 


authorised to ascribe to the Deity the character of be- 
nevolence ; and what is benevolence at all, must in him 
be infinite benevolence, by reason of the infinite, that 
is to say, the incalculably great, number of objects, 
upon which it is exercised. 

Of the origin of evil, no universal solution has 
been discovered ; I mean, no solution which reaches to 
all cases of complaint. The most comprehensive is that 
which arises from the consideration of general rules. 
We may, I think, without much difficulty, be brought 
to admit the four following points : first, that import- 
ant advantages may accrue to the universe from the 
order of nature proceeding according to general laws : 
secondly, that general laws, however well set and con- 
stituted, often thwart and cross one another: thirdly, 
that from these thwartings and crossings, frequent par- 
ticular inconveniences will arise: and, fourthly, that 
it agrees with our observation to suppose, that some 
degree of these inconveniences takes place in the works 
of nature. These points may be allowed ; and it may 
also be asserted, that the general laws with which we 
are acquainted are directed to beneficial ends. On the 
other hand, w T ith many of these laws we are not ac- 
quainted at all, or we are totally unable to trace them 
in their branches, and in their operation ; the effect of 
which ignorance is, that they cannot be of importance 
to us as measures by which to regulate our conduct. 
The conservation of them may be of importance in 
other respects, or to other beings, but we are unin- 
formed of their value or use; uninformed, conse- 
quently, when, and how far, they may or may not be 
suspended, or their effects turned aside, by a presiding 


and benevolent will, without incurring greater evils 
than those which would be avoided. The considera- 
tion, therefore, of general laws, although it may con- 
cern the question of the origin of evil very nearly 
(which I think it does), rests in views disproportionate 
to our faculties, and in a knowledge which we do not 
possess. It serves rather to account for the obscurity 
of the subject, than to supply us with distinct answers 
to our difficulties. However, whilst we assent to the 
above-stated propositions, as principles, whatever uncer- 
tainty we may find in the application, we lay a ground 
for believing, that cases of apparent evil, for which we 
can suggest no particular reason, are governed by rea- 
sons, which are more general, which lie deeper in the 
order of second causes, and which on that account are 
removed to a greater distance from us. 

The doctrine of imperfections, or, as it is called, of 
evils of imperfection, furnishes an account, founded, 
like the former, in views of universal nature. The 
doctrine is briefly this: — It is probable, that creation 
may be better replenished by sensitive beings of different 
sorts, than by sensitive beings all of one sort. It is 
likewise probable, that it may be better replenished by 
different orders of beings rising one above another in 
gradation, than by beings possessed of equal degrees of 
perfection. Now, a gradation of such beings, implies 
a gradation of imperfections. No class can justly com- 
plain of the imperfections which belong to its place in 
the scale, unless it were allowable for it to complain, 
that a scale of being was appointed in nature; for 
which appointment there appear to be reasons of wis- 
dom and goodness. 

In like manner, jiniteness, or what is resolvable into 
finiteness, in inanimate subjects, can never be a just 


subject of complaint; because if it were ever so, it 
would be always so: we mean, that we can never rea- 
sonably demand that things should be larger or more, 
when the same demand might be made, whatever the 
quantity or number was. 

And to me it seems, that the sense of mankind has 
so far acquiesced in these reasons, as that we seldom 
complain of evils of this class, when we clearly perceive 
them to be such. What I have to add, therefore, is, 
that we ought not to complain of some other evils, 
which stand upon the same foot of vindication as evils 
of confessed imperfection. We never complain, that 
the globe of our earth is too small: nor should we 
complain, if it were even much smaller. But where is 
the difference to us, between a less globe, and part of 
the present being uninhabitable? The inhabitants of 
an island may be apt enough to murmur at the sterility 
of some parts of it, against its rocks, or sands, Or 
swamps: but no one thinks himself authorised to mur- 
mur, simply because the island is not larger than it is. 
Yet these are the same griefs. 

The above are the two metaphysical answers which 
have been given to this great question. They are not 
the worse for being metaphysical, provided they be 
founded (which I think they are) in right reasoning : 
but they are of a nature too wide to be brought under 
our survey, and it is often difficult to apply them in the 
detail. Our speculations, therefore, are perhaps better 
employed when they confine themselves within a nar- 
rower circle. 

The observations which follow, are of this more 
limited, but more determinate, kind. 

Of bodily pain, the principal observation, no doubt, 
is that which we have already made, and already dwelt 


Upon, viz. " that it is seldom the object of contrivance ; 
that when it is so, the contrivance rests ultimately in 

To which, however, may be added, that the annex- 
ing of pain to the means of destruction is a salutary 
provision; inasmuch as it teaches vigilance and cau- 
tion; both gives notice of danger, and excites those 
endeavours which may be necessary to preservation. 
The evil consequence, which sometimes arises from the 
want of that timely intimation of danger which pain 
gives, is known to the inhabitants of cold countries by 
the example of frost-bitten limbs. I have conversed 
with patients who had lost toes and fingers by this 
cause. They have in general told me, that they were 
totally unconscious of any local uneasiness at the time. 
Some I have heard declare, that, whilst they were about 
their employment, neither their situation, nor the state 
of the air, was unpleasant. They felt no pain ; they 
suspected no mischief; till, by the application of 
warmth, they discovered, too late, the fatal injury 
which some of their extremities had suffered. I say 
that this shows the use of pain, and that we stand in 
need of such a monitor. I believe also that the use 
extends farther than we suppose, or can now trace; 
that to disagreeable sensations we, and all animals, owe, 
or have owed, many habits of action which are salutary, 
but which are become so familiar, as not easily to be 
referred to their origin. 

Pain also itself is not without its alleviations. It 
may be violent and frequent; but it is seldom both 
violent and long-continued : and its pauses and inter- 
missions become positive pleasures. It has the power 
of shedding a satisfaction over intervals of ease, which, 
I believe, few enjoyments exceed. A man resting 


from a fit of the stone or gout, is, for the time, in pos- 
session of feelings which undisturbed health cannot 
impart. They may be dearly bought, but still they 
are to be set against the price. And, indeed, it de- 
pends upon the duration and urgency of the pain, whe- 
ther they be dearly bought or not. I am far from 
being sure, that a man is not a gainer by suffering a 
moderate interruption of bodily ease for a couple of 
hours out of the four-and-twenty. Two very common 
observations favour this opinion: one is, that remis- 
sions of pain call forth, from those who experience 
them, stronger expressions of satisfaction and of grati- 
tude towards both the author and the instruments of 
their relief, than are excited by advantages of any other 
kind : the second is, that the spirits of sick men do not 
sink in proportion to the acuteness of their sufferings ; 
but rather appear to be roused and supported, not by 
pain, but by the high degree of comfort which they de- 
rive from its cessation, or even its subsidency, whenever 
that occurs; and which they taste with a relish, that 
diffuses some portion of mental complacency over the 
whole of that mixed state of sensations in which disease 
has placed them. 

In connexion with bodily pain may be considered 
bodily disease, whether painful or not. Few diseases 
are fatal. I have before me the account of a dispensary 
in the neighbourhood, which states six years' expe- 
rience as follows: 

Admitted . . . . . 6,420 

Cured ...... 5,476 

Dead 234 

And this I suppose nearly to agree with what other 
similar institutions exhibit. Now, in all these cases, 
some disorder must have been felt, or the patients 


would not have applied for a remedy ; yet we see how 
large a proportion of the maladies which were brought 
forward have either yielded to proper treatment, or, 
what is more probable, ceased of their own accord. 
We owe these frequent recoveries, and, where recovery 
does not take place, this patience of the human consti- 
tution under many of the distempers by which it is 
visited, to two benefactions of our nature. One is, 
that she works within certain limits ; allows of a cer- 
tain latitude within which health may be preserved, 
and within the confines of which it only suffers a gra- 
duated diminution. Different quantities of food, dif- 
ferent degrees of exercise, different portions of sleep, 
different states of the atmosphere, are compatible with 
the possession of health. So likewise it is with the se- 
cretions and excretions, with many internal functions 
of the body, and with the state, probably, of most of 
its internal organs. They may vary considerably, not 
only without destroying life, but without occasioning 
any high degree of inconveniency. The other property 
of our nature, to which we are still more beholden, is 
its constant endeavour to restore itself, when disor- 
dered, to its regular course. The fluids of the body 
appear to possess a power of separating and expelling 
any noxious substance which may have mixed itself 
with them. This they do, in eruptive fevers, by a 
kind of despumation, as Sydenham calls it, analogous 
in some measure to the intestine action by which fer- 
menting liquors work the yest to the surface. The 
solids, on their part, when their action is obstructed, 
not only resume that action, as soon as the obstruction 
is removed, but they struggle with the impediment. 
They take an action as near to the true one, as the 


difficulty and the disorganisation, with which they have 
to contend, will allow of. 

Of mortal diseases, the great use is to reconcile us to 
death. The horror of death proves the value of life. 
But it is in the power of disease to abate, or even ex- 
tinguish, this horror; which it does in a wonderful 
manner, and, oftentimes, by a mild and imperceptible 
gradation. Every man who has been placed in a situation 
to observe it, is surprised with the change which has 
been wrought in himself, when he compares the view 
which he entertains of death upon a sick-bed, with the 
heart- sinking dismay with which he should some time 
ago have met it in health. There is no similitude be- 
tween the sensations of a man led to execution, and 
the calm expiring of a patient at the close of his 
disease. Death to him is only the last of a long train 
of changes ; in his progress through which, it is pos- 
sible that he may experience no shocks or sudden tran- 

Death itself, as a mode of removal and of succession, 
is so connected with the whole order of our animal 
world, that almost every thing in that world must be 
changed, to be able to do without it. It may seem like- 
wise impossible to separate the fear of death from the 
enjoyment of life, or the perception of that fear from 
rational natures. Brutes are in a great measure deli* 
vered from all anxiety on this account by the inferiority 
of their faculties; or rather they seem to be armed with 
the apprehension of death just sufficiently to put them 
upon the means of preservation, and no farther. But 
would a human being wish to purchase this immunity 
at the expense of those mental powers which enable 
him to look forward to the future? 


Death implies separation : and the loss of those whom 
we love, must necessarily, so far as we can conceive, be 
accompanied with pain. To the brute creation, nature 
seems to have stepped in with some secret provision for 
their relief, under the rupture of their attachments. In 
their instincts towards their offspring, and of their off- 
spring to them, I have often been surprised to observe 
how ardently they love, and how soon they forget. The 
pertinacity of human sorrow (upon which, time also, at 
length, lays its softening hand) is probably, therefore, in 
some manner connected with the qualities of our rational 
or moral nature. One thing however is clear, vi%. that 
it is better that we should possess affections, the sources 
of so many virtues, and so many joys, although they be 
exposed to the incidents of life, as well as the inter- 
ruptions of mortality, than, by the want of them, be 
reduced to a state of selfishness, apathy, and quietism. 

Of other external evils (still confining ourselves to 
what are called physical or natural evils), a considerable 
part come within the scope of the following observation: 
— The great principle of human satisfaction is engage- 
ment. It is a most just distinction, which the late Mr. 
Tucker has dwelt upon so largely in his works, between 
pleasures in which we are passive, and pleasures in which 
we are active. And, I believe, every attentive observer 
of human life will assent to his position, that, however 
grateful the sensations may occasionally be in which we 
are passive, it is not these, but the latter class of our 
pleasures, which constitute satisfaction; which supply 
that regular stream of moderate and miscellaneous en- 
joyments, in which happiness, as distinguished from 
voluptuousness, consists. Now for rational occupation, 
which is, in other words, for the very material of con- 
tented existence, there would be no place left, if either 


the things with which we had to do were absolutely im- 
practicable to our endeavours, or if they were too obe* 
dient to our uses. A world, furnished with advantages 
on one side, and beset with difficulties, wants, and in- 
conveniences on the other, is the proper abode of free, 
rational, and active natures, being the fittest to stimulate 
and exercise their faculties. The very refractoriness of 
the objects they have to deal with, contributes to this 
purpose. A world in which nothing depended upon 
ourselves, however it might have suited an imaginary 
race of beings, would not have suited mankind. Their 
skill, prudence, industry; their various arts and their 
best attainments, from the application of which they 
draw, if not their highest, their most permanent gra- 
tifications, would be insignificant, if things could be 
either moulded by our volitions, or, of their own accord, 
conformed themselves to our views and wishes. Now 
it is in this refractoriness that we discern the seed and 
principle of physical evil, as far as it arises from that 
which is external to us. 

Civil evils, or the evils of civil life, are much more 
easily disposed of, than physical evils : because they are, 
in truth, of much less magnitude, and also because 
they result, by a kind of necessity, not only from the 
constitution of our nature, but from a part of that con- 
stitution which no one would wish to see altered. The 
case is this : Mankind will in every country breed up to 
a certain point of distress. That point may be dif- 
ferent in different countries or ages, according to the 
established usages of life in each. It will also shift 
upon the scale, so as to admit of a greater or less number 
of inhabitants, according as the quantity of provision, 
which is either produced in the country, or supplied to it 
from other countries, may happen to vary. But there 


must always be such a point, and the species will always 
breed up to it. The order of generation proceeds by 
something like a geometrical progression. The increase 
of provision, under circumstances even the most ad- 
vantageous, can only assume the form of an arithmetic 
series. Whence it follows, that the population will 
always overtake the provision, will pass beyond the line 
of plenty, and will continue to increase till checked by 
the difficulty of procuring subsistence*. Such difficulty 
therefore, along with its attendant circumstances, must 
be found in every old country : and these circumstances 
constitute what we call poverty, which, necessarily, im- 
poses labour, servitude, restraint. 

It seems impossible to people a country with in- 
habitants who shall be all easy in circumstances. For 
suppose the thing to be done, there would be such 
marrying and giving in marriage amongst them, as 
would in a few years change the face of affairs entirely: 
i. e. as would increase the consumption of those articles, 
which supplied the natural or habitual wants of the 
country, to such a degree of scarcity, as must leave 
the greatest part of the inhabitants unable to procure 
them without toilsome endeavours, or, out of the dif- 
ferent kinds of these articles, to procure any kind ex- 
cept that which was most easily produced. And this, 
in fact, describes the condition of the mass of the 
community in all countries: a condition unavoidably, 
as it should seem, resulting from the provision which 
is made in the human, in common with all animal con- 
stitutions, for the perpetuity and multiplication of the 

It need not however dishearten any endeavours for 

* See a statement of this subject, in a late treatise upon po- 


the public service, to know that population naturally 
treads upon the heels of improvement. If the condition 
of a people be meliorated, the consequence will be, 
either that the mean happiness will be increased, or a 
greater number partake of it; or, which is most likely 
to happen, that both effects will take place together. 
There may be limits fixed by nature to both, but they 
are limits not yet attained, nor even approached, in any 
country of the world. 

And when we speak of limits at all, we have respect 
only to provisions for animal wants. There are sources, 
and means, and auxiliaries, and augmentations of human 
happiness, communicable without restriction of numbers ; 
as capable of being possessed by a thousand persons as 
by one. Such are those, which flow from a mild, con- 
trasted with a tyrannic government, whether civil or 
domestic; those which spring from religion; those 
which grow out of a sense of security; those which 
depend upon habits of virtue, sobriety, moderation, 
order; those, lastly, which are found in the possession 
of well-directed tastes and desires, compared with the 
dominion of tormenting, pernicious, contradictory, un- 
satisfied, and unsatisfiable passions. 

The distinctions of civil life are apt enough to be re- 
garded as evils, by those who sit under them ; but, in 
my opinion, with very little reason. 

In the first place, the advantages which the higher 
conditions of life are supposed to confer, bear no pro- 
portion in value to the advantages which are bestowed 
by nature. The gifts of nature always surpass the 
gifts of fortune. How 7 much, for example, is activity 
better than attendance; beauty than dress; appetite, 
digestion, and tranquil bowels, than all the studies of 
cookery, or than the most costly compilation of forced, 
or far-fetched dainties! 


Nature has a strong tendency to equalisation. Habit, 
the instrument of nature, is a great leveller ; the fami- 
liarity which it induces, taking off the edge both of our 
pleasures and our sufferings. Indulgences which are 
habitual, keep us in ease, and cannot be carried much 
farther. So that with respect to the gratifications of 
which the senses are capable, the difference is by no 
means proportionable to the apparatus. Nay, so far as 
superfluity generates fastidiousness, the difference is on 
the wrong side. 

It is not necessary to contend, that the advantages 
derived from wealth are none (under due regulations 
they are certainly considerable), but that they are not 
greater than they ought to be. Money is the sweet- 
ener of human toil; the substitute for coercion; the 
reconciler of labour with liberty. It is, moreover, the 
stimulant of enterprise in all projects and undertakings, 
as well as of diligence in the most beneficial arts and 
employments. Now, did affluence, when possessed, 
contribute nothing to happiness, or nothing beyond 
the mere supply of necessaries; and the secret should 
come to be discovered ; we might be in danger of losing 
great part of the uses, which are, at present, derived to 
us through this important medium. Not only would 
the tranquillity of social life be put in peril by the want 
of a motive to attach men to their private concerns ; 
but the satisfaction which all men receive from success 
in their respective occupations, which collectively con- 
stitutes the great mass of human comfort, would be 
done away in its very principle. 

With respect to station, as it is distinguished from 
riches, whether it confer authority over others, or be 
invested with honours which apply solely to sentiment 
and imagination, the truth is, that what is gained by 



rising through the ranks of life, is not more than suf- 
ficient to draw forth the exertions of those who are en- 
gaged in the pursuits which lead to advancement, and 
which, in general, are such as ought to be encouraged. 
Distinctions of this sort are subjects much more of 
competition than of enjoyment; and in that competi- 
tion their use consists. It is not, as hath been rightly 
observed, by what the Lord Mayor feels in his coach, 
but by what the apprentice feels who gazes at him, that 
the public is served. 

As we approach the summits of human greatness, 
the comparison of good and evil, with respect to per- 
sonal comfort, becomes still more problematical ; even 
allowing to ambition all its pleasures. The poet asks, 
" What is grandeur, what is power?" The philosopher 
answers " Constraint and plague : et in maxima quaque 
fortund minimum licere." One very common error 
misleads the opinion of mankind on this head, viz. 
that, universally, authority is pleasant, submission pain- 
ful. In the general course of human affairs, the very 
reverse of this is nearer to the truth. Command is 
anxiety, obedience ease. 

Artificial distinctions sometimes promote real equality. 
Whether they be hereditary, or be the homage paid to 
office, or the respect attached by public opinion to par- 
ticular professions, they serve to confront that grand 
and unavoidable distinction which arises from property, 
and w^hich is most overbearing where there is no other. 
It is of the nature of property, not only to be irregu- 
larly distributed, but to run into large masses. Public 
laws should be so constructed as to favour its diffusion 
as much as they can. But all that can be done by 
laws, consistently with that degree of government of 
his property which ought to be left to the subject, will 


not be sufficient to counteract this tendency. There 
must always therefore be the difference between rich 
and poor: and this difference will be the more grind- 
ing, when no pretension is allowed to be set up 
against it. 

So that the evils, if evils they must be called, which 
spring either from the necessary subordinations of civil 
life, or from the distinctions which have, naturally, 
though not necessarily, grown up in most societies, so 
long as they are unaccompanied by privileges injurious 
or oppressive to the rest of the community, are such, 
as may, even by the most depressed ranks, be endured 
with very little prejudice to their comfort. 

The mischiefs of which mankind are the occasion to 
one another, by their private wickednesses and cruel- 
ties; by tyrannical exercises of power; by rebellions 
against just authority; by wars; by national jealousies 
and competitions operating to the destruction of third 
countries; or by other instances of misconduct either 
in individuals or societies, are all to be resolved into 
the character of man as a, free agent. Free agency, in 
its very essence, contains liability to abuse. Yet, if 
you deprive man of his free agency, you subvert his 
nature. You may have order from him and regularity, 
as you may from the tides or the trade-winds, but you 
put an end to his moral character, to virtue, to merit, 
to accountableness, to the use indeed of reason. To 
which must be added the observation, that even the 
bad qualities of mankind have an origin in their good 
ones. The case is this: Human passions are either 
necessary to human welfare, or capable of being made, 
and, in a great majority of instances, in fact made, con- 
ducive to its happiness. These passions are strong and 
general ; and, perhaps, would not answer their purpose 

A A 2 


unless they were so. But strength and generality, 
when it is expedient that particular circumstances 
should be respected, become, if left to themselves, ex- 
cess and misdirection. From which excess and misdi- 
rection, the vices of mankind (the causes, no doubt, of 
much misery) appear to spring. This account, whilst 
it shows us the principle of vice, shows us, at the same 
time, the province of reason and of self-government ; 
the want also of every support which can be procured 
to either from the aids of religion; and it shows this, 
without having recourse to any native, gratuitous ma- 
lignity in the human constitution. Mr. Hume, in his 
posthumous dialogues, asserts, indeed, of idleness, or 
aversion to labour (which he states to lie at the root of 
a considerable part of the evils which mankind suffer), 
that it is simply and merely bad. But how does he 
distinguish idleness from the love of ease? or is he sure, 
that the love of ease in individuals is not the chief 
foundation of social tranquillity ? It will be found, I 
believe, to be true, that in every community there is a 
large class of its members, whose idleness is the best 
quality about them, being the corrective of other bad 
ones. If it were possible, in every instance, to give a 
right determination to industry, we could never have 
too much of it. But this is not possible, if men are to 
be free. And without this, nothing would be so dan- 
gerous, as an incessant, universal, indefatigable activity. 
In the civil world, as well as in the material, it is the 
vis inertice which keeps things in their places. 

Natural Theology has ever been pressed with 
this question, — Why, under the regency of a supreme 


and benevolent Will, should there be, in the world, so 
much, as there is, of the appearance of chance? 

The question in its whole compass lies beyond our 
reach : but there are not wanting, as in the origin of 
evil, answers which seem to have considerable weight 
in particular cases, and also to embrace a considerable 
number of cases. 

I. There must be chance in the midst of design : by 
which we mean, that events which are not designed, 
necessarily arise from the pursuit of ovents which are 
designed. One man travelling to York, meets another 
man travelling to London. Their meeting is by chance, 
is accidental, and so would be called and reckoned, 
though the journeys which produced the meeting were, 
both of them, undertaken with design and from deli- 
beration. The meeting, though accidental, was never- 
theless hypothetically necessary (which is the only sort 
of necessity that is intelligible): for if the two journeys 
were commenced at the time, pursued in the direction, 
and with the speed, in which and with which, they were 
in fact begun and performed, the meeting could not be 
avoided. There was not, therefore, the less necessity 
in it for its being by chance. Again, the rencounter 
might be most unfortunate, though the errands, upon 
which each party set out upon his journey, were the 
most innocent or the most laudable. The by effect 
may be unfavourable, without impeachment of the pro- 
per purpose, for the sake of which the train, from the 
operation of which these consequences ensued, was put 
in motion. Although no cause act without a good 
purpose ; accidental consequences, like these, may be 
either good or bad. 

II. The appearance of chance will always bear a 
proportion to the ignorance of the observer. The cast 


of a die as regularly follows the laws of motion, as the 
going of a watch ; yet, because we can trace the opera- 
tion of those laws through the works and movements of 
the watch, and cannot trace them in the shaking and 
throwing of the die (though the laws be the same, and 
prevail equally in both cases), we call the turning up 
of the number of the die, chance, the pointing of the 
index of the watch, machinery, order, or by some name 
which excludes chance. It is the same in those events 
which depend upon the will of a free and rational agent. 
The verdict of a jury, the sentence of a judge, the re- 
solution of an assembly, the issue of a contested elec- 
tion, will have more or less of the appearance of chance, 
might be more or less the subject of a wager, according 
as we were less or more acquainted with the reasons 
which influenced the deliberation. The difference re- 
sides in the information of the observer, and not in 
the thing itself; which, in all the cases proposed, pro- 
ceeds from intelligence, from mind, from counsel, from 

Now when this one cause of the appearance of chance, 
viz. the ignorance of the observer, comes to be applied 
to the operations of the Deity, it is easy to foresee how 
fruitful it must prove of difficulties and of seeming con- 
fusion. It is only to think of the Deity, to perceive 
what variety of objects, what distance of time, what ex- 
tent of space and action, his counsels may, or rather 
must, comprehend. Can it be wondered at, that, of 
the purposes which dwell in such a mind as this, so 
small a part should be known to us? It is only neces- 
sary, therefore, to bear in our thought, that in propor- 
tion to the inadequateness of our information, will be 
the quantity, in the world, of apparent chance. 

III. In a great variety of cases, and of cases com- 


prehending numerous subdivisions, it appears, for many 
reasons, to be better that events rise up by chance, or, 
more properly speaking, with the appearance of chance, 
than according to any observable rule whatever. This 
is not seldom the case even in human arrangements. 
Each person's place and precedency, in a public meet- 
ing, may be determined by lot. Work and labour may 
be allotted. Tasks and burdens may be allotted: 

Operumque laborem 

Partibus aequabat justis, aut sorte trahebat. 

Military service and station may be allotted. The dis- 
tribution of provision may be made by lot, as it is in a 
sailor's mess ; in some cases also, the distribution of fa- 
vours may be made by lot. In all these cases, it seems 
to be acknowledged, that there are advantages in per- 
mitting events to chance, superior to those, which 
would or could arise from regulation. In all these 
cases also, though events rise up in the way of chance, 
it is by appointment that they do so. 

In other events, and such as are independent of hu- 
man will, the reasons for this preference of uncertainty 
to rule, appear to be still stronger. For example: it 
seems to be expedient that the period of human life 
should be uncertain. Did mortality follow any fixed 
rule, it would produce a security in those that were at 
a distance from it, which would lead to the greatest 
disorders; and a horror in those who approached it, 
similar to that which a condemned prisoner feels on 
the night before his execution. But, that death be 
uncertain, the young must sometimes die, as well as 
the old. Also were deaths never sudden, they who are 
in health would be too confident of life. The strong 
and the active, who want most to be warned and checked, 


would live without apprehension or restraint. On the 
other hand, were sudden deaths very frequent, the 
sense of constant jeopardy would interfere too much 
with the degree of ease and enjoyment intended for us; 
and human life be too precarious for the business and 
interests which belong to it. There could not be de- 
pendence either upon our own lives, or the lives of 
those with whom we were connected, sufficient to carry 
on the regular offices of human society. The manner, 
therefore, in which death is made to occur, conduces to 
the purposes of admonition, without overthrowing the 
necessary stability of human affairs. 

Disease being the forerunner of death, there is the 
same reason for its attacks coming upon us under the 
appearance of chance, as there is for uncertainty in the 
time of death itself. 

The seasons are a mixture of regularity and chance. 
They are regular enough to authorise expectation, 
whilst their being, in a considerable degree, irregular, 
induces, on the part of the cultivators of the soil, a ne- 
cessity for personal attendance, for activity, vigilance, 
precaution. It is this necessity which creates farmers; 
which divides the profit of the soil between the owner 
and the occupier; which by requiring expedients, by 
increasing employment, and by rewarding expenditure, 
promotes agricultural arts and agricultural life, of all 
modes of life the best, being the most conducive to 
health, to virtue, to enjoyment. I believe it to be 
found in fact, that where the soil is the most fruitful, 
and the seasons the most constant, there the condition 
of the cultivators of the earth is the most depressed. 
Uncertainty, therefore, has its use even to those who 
sometimes complain of it the most. Seasons of scarcity 
themselves are not without their advantages. They 


call forth new exertions ; they set contrivance and in- 
genuity at work ; they give birth to improvements in 
agriculture and oeconomy ; they promote the investiga- 
tion and management of public resources. 

Again; there are strong intelligible reasons, why 
there should exist in human society great disparity of 
ivealth and station; not only as these things are ac- 
quired in different degrees, but at the first setting out 
of life. In order, for instance, to answer the various 
demands of civil life, there ought to be amongst the 
members of every civil society a diversity of education, 
which can only belong to an original diversity of cir- 
cumstances. As this sort of disparity, which ought to 
take place from the beginning of life, must, ex hypo- 
thesis be previous to the merit or demerit of the per- 
sons upon whom it falls, can it be better disposed of 
than by chance? Parentage is that sort of chance : yet 
it is the commanding circumstance which in general 
fixes each man's place in civil life, along with every 
thing which appertains to its distinctions. It may be 
the result of a beneficial rule, that the fortunes or ho- 
nours of the father devolve upon the son; and, as it 
should seem, of a still more necessary rule, that the 
low or laborious condition of the parent be communi- 
cated to his family; but with respect to the successor 
himself, it is the drawing of a ticket in a lottery. In- 
equalities, therefore, of fortune, at least the greatest 
part of them, viz. those which attend us from our birth, 
and depend upon our birth, may be left, as they are 
left, to chance, without any just cause for questioning 
the regency of a supreme Disposer of events. 

But not only the donation, when by the necessity of 
the case they must be gifts, but even the acquirability 


of civil advantages, ought, perhaps, in a considerable 
degree, to lie at the mercy of chance. Some would 
have all the virtuous rich, or, at least, removed from 
the evils of poverty, without perceiving, I suppose, the 
consequence, that all the poor must be wicked. And 
how such a society could be kept in subjection to go- 
vernment, has not been shown: for the poor, that is, 
they who seek their subsistence by constant manual 
labour, must still form the mass of the community; 
otherwise the necessary labour of life could not be car- 
ried on ; the work would not be done, which the wants 
of mankind in a state of civilisation, and still more in a 
state of refinement, require to be done. 

It appears to be also true, that the exigencies of 
social life call not only for an original diversity of ex- 
ternal circumstances, but for a mixture of different 
faculties, tastes, and tempers. Activity and contempla- 
tion, restlessness and quiet, courage and timidity, am- 
bition and contentedness, not to say even indolence 
and dulness, are all wanted in the world, all conduce 
to the well going on of human affairs, just as the 
rudder, the sails, and the ballast of a ship, all perform 
their part in the navigation. Now, since these cha- 
racters require for their foundation different original 
talents, different dispositions, perhaps also different 
bodily constitutions; and since, likewise, it is ap- 
parently expedient, that they be promiscuously scat- 
tered amongst the different classes of society : can the 
distribution of talents, dispositions, and the constitutions 
upon which they depend, be better made than by chance ? 

The opposites of apparent chance, are constancy and 
sensible interposition ; every degree of secret direction 
being consistent with it. Now of constancy, or of 


fixed and known rules, we have seen in some cases the 
inapplicability: and inconveniences which we do not 
see, might attend their application in other cases. 

Of sensible interposition, we may be permitted to 
remark, that a Providence, always and certainly di- 
stinguishable, would be neither more nor less than 
miracles rendered frequent and common. It is difficult 
to judge of the state into which this would throw us. 
It is enough to say, that it would cast us upon a quite 
different dispensation from that under which we live. 
It would be a total and radical change. And the 
change would deeply affect, or perhaps subvert, the 
whole conduct of human affairs. I can readily believe, 
that, other circumstances being adapted to it, such a 
state might be better than our present state. It may be 
the state of other beings ; it may be ours hereafter. 
But the question with which we are now concerned is, 
how far it would be consistent with our condition, 
supposing it in other respects to remain as it is? And 
in this question there seem to be reasons of great 
moment on the negative side. For instance: so long 
as bodily labour continues, on so many accounts, to be 
necessary for the bulk of mankind, any dependency 
upon supernatural aid, by unfixing those motives which 
promote exertion, or by relaxing those habits which 
engender patient industry, might introduce negligence, 
inactivity, and disorder, into the most useful occupations 
of human life ; and thereby deteriorate the condition of 
human life itself. 

As moral agents, we should experience a still greater 
alteration ; of which, more will be said under the next 

Although, therefore, the Deity, who possesses the 
power of winding and turning, as he pleases, the course 


of causes which issue from himself, do in fact interpose 
to alter or intercept effects, which without such inter- 
position would have taken place ; yet it is by no means 
incredible, that his Providence, which always rests upon 
final good, may have made a reserve with respect to the 
manifestation of his interference, a part of the very 
plan which he has appointed for our terrestrial existence, 
and a part conformable with, or in some sort required 
by, other parts of the same plan. It is at any rate 
evident, that a large and ample province remains for 
the exercise of Providence, without its being naturally 
perceptible by us ; because obscurity, when applied to 
the interruption of laws, bears a necessary proportion to 
the imperfection of our knowledge when applied to the 
laws themselves, or rather to the effects which these 
laws, under their various and incalculable combinations, 
would of their own accord produce. And if it be said, 
that the doctrine of Divine Providence, by reason of 
the ambiguity under which its exertions present them- 
selves, can be attended with no practical influence upon 
our conduct ; that, although we believe ever so firmly 
that there is a Providence, we must prepare, and 
provide, and act, as if there were none ; I answer, that 
this is admitted ; and that we further allege, that so to 
prepare, and so to provide, is consistent with the most 
perfect assurance of the reality of a Providence : and 
not only so, but that it is, probably, one advantage of 
the present state of our information, that our provisions 
and preparations are not disturbed by it. Or if it be 
still asked, Of what use at all then is the doctrine, if it 
neither alter our measures nor regulate our conduct ? I 
answer again, that it is of the greatest use, but that it 
is a doctrine of sentiment and piety, not (immediately 
at least) of action or conduct ; that it applies to the 


consolation of men's minds, to their devotions, to the 
excitement of gratitude, the support of patience, the 
keeping alive and the strengthening of every motive for 
endeavouring to please our Maker; and that these are 
great uses. 

Of all views under which human life has ever been 
considered, the most reasonable, in my judgement, is 
that which regards it as a state of probation. If the 
course of the world was separated from the contrivances 
of nature, I do not know that it would be necessary to 
look for any other account of it than what, if it may be 
called an account, is contained in the answer, that 
events rise up by chance. But since the contrivances 
of nature decidedly evince intention; and since the 
course of the world and the contrivances of nature have 
the same author; we are, by the force of this connexion, 
led to believe, that the appearance, under which events 
take place, is reconcileable with the supposition of de- 
sign on the part of the Deity. It is enough that they 
be reconcileable with this supposition ; and it is un- 
doubtedly true, that they may be reconcileable, though 
we cannot reconcile them. The mind, however, which 
contemplates the works of nature, and, in those works, 
sees so much of means directed to ends, of beneficial 
effects brought about by wise expedients, of concerted 
trains of causes terminating in the happiest results ; so 
much, in a word, of counsel, intention, and benevo- 
lence ; a mind, I say, drawn into the habit of thought 
which these observations excite, can hardly turn its view 
to the condition of our own species, without endeavour- 
ing to suggest to itself some purpose, some design, for 
which the state in which we are placed is fitted, and 
which it is made to serve. Now we assert the most 


probable supposition to be, that it is a state of moral 
probation ; and that many things in it suit with this 
hypothesis, which suit no other. It is not a state of 
unmixed happiness, or of happiness simply ; it is not a 
state of designed misery, or of misery simply: it is not 
a state of retribution ; it is not a state of punishment. 
It suits with none of these suppositions. It accords 
much better with the idea of its being a condition cal- 
culated for the production, exercise, and improvement 
of moral qualities, with a view to a future state, in 
which these qualities, after being so produced, exer- 
cised, and improved, may, by a new and more favour- 
ing constitution of things, receive their reward, or be- 
come their own. If it be said, that this is to enter upon 
a religious rather than a philosophical- consideration ; I 
answer, that the name of Religion ought to form no 
objection, if it shall turn out to be the case, that the 
more religious our views are, the more probability they 
contain. The degree of beneficence, of benevolent in- 
tention, and of power, exercised in the construction of 
sensitive beings, goes strongly in favour, not only of a 
creative, but of a continuing care, that is, of a ruling 
Providence. The degree of chance which appears to 
prevail in the world requires to be reconciled with this 
hypothesis. Now it is one thing to maintain the doc- 
trine of Providence along with that of a future state, 
and another thing without it. In my opinion, the two 
doctrines must stand or fall together. For although 
more of this apparent chance may perhaps, upon other 
principles, be accounted for than is generally supposed, 
yet a future state alone rectifies all disorders : and if it 
can be shown, that the appearance of disorder is con- 
sistent with the uses of life as a preparatory state, or 


that in some respects it promotes these uses, then, so 
far as this hypothesis may be accepted, the ground of 
. the difficulty is done away. ' 

In the wide scale of human condition, there is not 
perhaps one of its manifold diversities, which does not 
bear upon the design here suggested. Virtue is infi- 
nitely various. There is no situation in which a rational 
being is placed, from that of the best-instructed Chris- 
tian, down to the condition of the rudest barbarian, 
which affords not room for moral agency; for the ac- 
quisition, exercise, and display, of voluntary qualities, 
good and bad. Health and sickness, enjoyment and 
suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, 
power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilisation 
and barbarity, have all their offices and duties, all serve 
for the formation of character : for when we speak of a 
state of trial, it must be remembered, that characters 
are not only tried, or proved, or detected, but that 
they are generated also, and formed, by circumstances. 
The best dispositions may subsist under the most de- 
pressed, the most afflicted fortunes. A West-Indian 
slave, who, amidst his wrongs, retains his benevolence, 
I, for my part, look upon as amongst the foremost of 
human candidates for the rewards of virtue. The kind 
master of such a slave, that is, he who, in the exercise 
of an inordinate authority, postpones, in any degree, 
his own interest to his slave's comfort, is likewise a me- 
ritorious character: but still he is inferior to his slave. 
All however which I contend for is r that these desti- 
nies, opposite as they may be in every other view, ai*e 
both trials; and equally such. The observation may 
be applied to every other condition ; to the whole range 
of the scale, not excepting even its lowest extremity. 
Savages appear to us all alike; but it is owing to the 


distance at which we view savage life, that we perceive 
in it no discrimination of character. I make no doubt, 
but that moral qualities, both good and bad, are called 
into action as much, and that they subsist in as great 
variety, in these inartificial societies, as they are, or do, 
in polished life. Certain at least it is, that the good 
and ill treatment which each individual meets with, de- 
pends more upon the choice and voluntary conduct of 
those about him, than it does or ought to do, under 
regular civil institutions, and the coercion of public 
laws. So again, to turn our eyes to the other end of 
the scale ; namely, that part of it which is occupied by 
mankind enjoying the benefits of learning, together 
with the lights of revelation ; there also, the advantage 
is all along probationary. Christianity itself, I mean 
the revelation of Christianity, is not only a blessing, 
but a trial. It is one of the diversified means by which 
the character is exercised: and they who require of 
Christianity, that the revelation of it should be uni- 
versal, may possibly be found to require, that one spe- 
cies of probation should be adopted, if not to the ex- 
clusion of others, at least to the narrowing of that 
variety which the wisdom of the ©eity hath appointed 
to this part of his moral ceconomy*. 

Now if this supposition be well founded ; that is, if 
it be true, that our ultimate, or our most permanent 
happiness, will depend, not upon the temporary condi- 

* The reader will observe, that I speak of the revelation of 
Christianity as distinct from Christianity itself. The dispensation 
may already be universal. That part of mankind which never heard 
of Christ's name, may nevertheless be redeemed, that is, be placed 
in a better condition, with respect to their future state, by his in- 
tervention ; may be the objects of his benignity and intercession, as 
well as of the propitiatory virtue of his passion. But this is not 
" natural theology;" therefore I will not dwell longer upon it. 


tion into which we are cast, but upon our behaviour in 
it; then is it a much more fit subject of chance than we 
usually allow or apprehend it to be, in what manner 
the variety of external circumstances, which subsist in 
the human world, is distributed amongst the individuals 
of the species. " This life being a state of probation, 
it is immaterial/' says Rousseau, " what kind of trials 
we experience in it, provided they produce their effects." 
Of two agents who stand indifferent to the moral Go- 
vernor of the universe, one may be exercised by riches, 
the other by poverty. The treatment of these two shall 
appear to be very opposite, whilst in truth it is the 
same; for though, in many respects, there be great dis- 
parity between the conditions assigned, in one main 
article there may be none, vi%. in that they are alike 
trials; have both their duties and temptations, not less 
arduous or less dangerous in one case than the other; 
so that if the final award follow the character, the ori- 
ginal distribution of the circumstances under which 
that character is formed, may be defended upon prin- 
ciples not only of justice but of equality. What hinders, 
therefore, but that mankind may draw lots for their 
condition? They take their portion of faculties and 
opportunities, as any unknown cause, or concourse of 
causes, or as causes acting for other purposes, may hap- 
pen to set them out : but the event is governed by that 
which depends upon themselves, the application of what 
they have received. In dividing the talents, no rule 
was observed: none was necessary: in rewarding the 
use of them, that of the most correct justice. The 
chief difference at last appears to be, that the right 
use of more talents, i. e. of a greater trust, will be more 
highly rewarded, than the right use of fewer talents, 
i. e. of a less trust. And since, for other purposes, it 



is expedient that there be an inequality of concredited 
talents here, as well, probably, as an inequality of condi- 
tions hereafter, though all remuneratory ; can any rule, 
adapted to that inequality, be more agreeable, even to 
our apprehensions of distributive justice, than this is? 

We have said, that the appearance of casualty, which 
attends the occurrences and events of life, not only does 
not interfere with its uses, as a state of probation, but 
that it promotes these uses. 

Passive virtues, of all others the severest and the 
most sublime; of all others, perhaps, the most accepta- 
ble to the Deity; would, it is evident, be excluded 
from a constitution, in which happiness and misery re- 
gularly followed virtue and vice. Patience and com- 
posure under distress, affliction, and pain ; a steadfast 
keeping up of our confidence in God, and of our re- 
liance upon his final goodness, at the time when every 
thing present is adverse and discouraging; and (what 
is no less difficult to retain) a cordial desire for the hap- 
piness of others, even when we are deprived of our own ; 
these dispositions, which constitute, perhaps, the per- 
fection of our moral nature, would not have found their 
proper office and object in a state of avowed retribution ; 
and in which, consequently, endurance of evil would be 
only submission to punishment. 

Again ; one man's sufferings may be another man's 
trial. The family of a sick parent is a school of filial 
piety. The charities of domestic life, and not only 
these, but all the social virtues, are called out by dis- 
tress. But then, misery, to be the proper object of 
mitigation, or of that benevolence which endeavours to 
relieve, must be really or apparently casual. It is upon 
such sufferings alone that benevolence can operate. For 
were there no evils in the world, but what were punish- 


ments, properly and intelligibly such, benevolence 
would only stand in the way of justice. Such evils, 
consistently with the administration of moral govern- 
ment, could not be prevented or alleviated ; that is to 
say, could not be remitted in whole or in part, except 
by the authority which inflicted them, or by an appel- 
late or superior authority. This consideration, which 
is founded in our most acknowledged apprehensions of 
the nature of penal justice, may possess its weight in 
the Divine counsels. Virtue perhaps is the greatest of 
all ends. In human beings, relative virtues form a 
large part of the whole. Now relative virtue presup- 
poses, not only the existence of evil, without which it 
could have no object, no material to work upon, but 
that evils be, apparently at least, misfortunes; that is, 
the effects of apparent chance. It may be in pursuance, 
therefore, and in furtherance of the same scheme of 
probation, that the evils of life are made so to present 

I have already observed, that when we let in religious 
considerations, we often let in light upon the difficulties 
of nature. So in the fact now to be accounted for, the 
degree of happiness, which we usually enjoy in this life, 
may be better suited to a state of trial and probation, 
than a greater degree would be. The truth is, we are 
rather too much delighted with the world, than too 
little. Imperfect, broken, and precarious as our plea- 
sures are, they are more than sufficient to attach us to 
the eager pursuit of them. A regard to a future state 
can hardly keep its place as it is. If we were designed 
therefore to be influenced by that regard, might not a 
more indulgent system, a higher, or more uninterrupted 
state of gratification, have interfered with the design ? 
At least it seems expedient, that mankind should be 



susceptible of this influence, when presented to thein: 
that the condition of the world should not be such, as 
to exclude its operation, or even to weaken it more than 
it does. In a religious view (however we may complain 
of them in every other), privation, disappointment, and 
satiety, are not without the most salutary tendencies. 



In all cases, wherein the mind feels itself in danger 
of being confounded by variety, it is sure to rest upon 
a few strong points, or perhaps upon a single instance. 
Amongst a multitude of proofs, it is one that does the 
business. l£ we observe in any argument, that hardly 
two minds fix upon the same instance, the diversity of 
choice shows the strength of the argument, because it 
shows the number and competition of the examples. 
There is no subject in which the tendency to dwell 
upon select or single topics is so usual, because there is 
no subject, of which, in its full extent, the latitude is 
so great, as that of natural history applied to the proof 
of an intelligent Creator. For my part, I take my 
stand in human anatomy; and the examples of me- 
chanism I should be apt to draw out from the copious 
catalogue which it supplies, are the pivot upon which 
the head turns, the ligament within the socket of the 
hip joint, the pulley or trochlear muscles of the eye, 
the epiglottis, the bandages which tie down the tendons 
of the wrist and instep, the slit or perforated muscles 
at the hands and feet, the knitting of the intestines to 
the mesentery, the course of the chyle into the blood, 


and the constitution of the sexes as extended through- 
out the whole of the animal creation. To these in- 
stances, the reader's memory will go back, as they are 
severally set forth in their places; there is not one of 
the number which I do not think decisive; not one 
which is not strictly mechanical : nor have I read or 
heard of any solution of these appearances, which, in 
the smallest degree, shakes the conclusion that we build 
upon them. 

But, of the greatest part of those, who, either in this 
book or any other, read arguments to prove the exist- 
ence of a God, it will be said, that they leave off only 
where they began ; that they were never ignorant of 
this great truth, never doubted of it ; that it does not 
therefore appear, what is gained by researches from 
which no new opinion is learnt, and upon the subject 
of which no proofs were wanted. Now I answer that, 
by investigation, the following points are always gained, 
in favour of doctrines even the most generally acknow- 
ledged (supposing them to be true), viz, stability and 
impression. Occasions will arise to try the firmness of 
our most habitual opinions. And upon these occasions, 
it is a matter of incalculable use to feel our foundation; 
to find a support in argument for what we had taken 
up upon authority. In the present case, the arguments 
upon which the conclusion rests are exactly such, as a 
truth of universal concern ought to rest upon. " They 
are sufficiently open to the views and capacities of the 
unlearned, at the same time that they acquire new 
strength and lustre from the discoveries of the learned. ,, 
If they had been altogether abstruse and recondite, 
they would not have found their way to the under- 
standings of the mass of mankind; if they had been 
merely popular, they might have wanted solidity. 


But, secondly, what is gained by research in the sta- 
bility of our conclusion, is also gained from it in im- 
pression. Physicians tell us, that there is a great deal 
of difference between taking a medicine, and the me- 
dicine getting into the constitution. A difference not 
unlike which, obtains with respect to those great moral 
propositions, which ought to form the directing prin- 
ciples of human conduct. It is one thing to assent to 
a proposition of this sort ; another, and a very different 
thing, to have properly imbibed its influence. I take 
the case to be this : perhaps almost every man living 
has a particular train of thought, into which his mind 
glides and falls, when at leisure from the impressions 
and ideas that occasionally excite it : perhaps, also, the 
train of thought here spoken of, more than any other 
thing, determines the character. It is of the utmost 
consequence, therefore, that this property of our con- 
stitution be well regulated. Now it is by frequent or 
continued meditation upon a subject, by placing a sub- 
ject in different points of view, by induction of parti- 
culars, by variety of examples, by applying principles 
to the solution of phenomena, by dwelling upon proofs 
and consequences, that mental exercise is drawn into 
any particular channel. It is by these means, at least, 
that we have any power over it. The train of sponta- 
neous thought, and the choice of that train, may be 
directed to different ends, and may appear to be more 
or less judiciously fixed, according to the purpose in 
respect of which we consider it: but, in a moral view, 
I shall not, I believe, be contradicted when I say, that, 
if one train of thinking be more desirable than another, 
it is that which regards the phenomena of nature with 
a constant reference to a supreme intelligent Author. 
To have made this the ruling, the habitual sentiment 


of our minds, is to have laid the foundation of every 
thing which is religious. The world thenceforth be- 
comes a temple, and life itself one continued act of 
adoration. The change is no less than this; that, 
whereas formerly God was seldom in our thoughts, we 
can now scarcely look upon any thing without perceiving 
its relation to him. Every organised natural body, fox 
in the provisions which it colSalnTlbr^s^ustentation 
an~67 propagation, testifies a care, on the part of the 
Creator, expressly directed to these purposes. We are 
on all sides surrounded by such bodies; examined in 
their parts, wonderfully curious; compared with one 
another, no less wonderfully diversified. So that the 
mind, as well as the eye, may either expatiate in variety 
and multitude, or fix itself down to the investigation 
of particular divisions of the science. And in either 
case it will rise up from its occupation, possessed by 
the subject, in a very different manner, and with a very 
different degree of influence, from what a mere assent 
to any verbal proposition which can be formed concern- 
ing the existence of the Deity, at least that merely 
complying assent with which those about us are satis- 
fied, and with which we are too apt to satisfy ourselves, 
will or can produce upon the thoughts. More espe- 
cially may this difference be perceived, in the degree of 
admiration and of awe, with which the Divinity is re- 
garded, when represented to the understanding by its 
own remarks, its own reflections, and its own reasonings, 
compared with what is excited by any language that 
can be used by others. The works of nature want only 
to be contemplated. When contemplated they have 
every thing in them which can astonish by their great- 
ness : for, of the vast scale of operation through which 
our discoveries carry us, at one end we see an intelligent 


Power arranging planetary systems, fixing, for instance, 
the trajectory of Saturn, or constructing a ring of two 
hundred thousand miles diameter, to surround his body, 
and be suspended like a magnificent arch over the heads 
of his inhabitants ; and, at the other, bending a hooked 
tooth, concerting and providing an appropriate me- 
chanism, for the clasping and reclasping of the filaments 
of the feather of the humming-bird. We have proof, 

notjonly of both these works proceedingTrom an inteP" 
^jgej^ajjej^ th^sam e 

.agent : for, in the first .place, we can trace an identity 
of plan, a connexion of system, from Saturn to our own 
gToue: and* when arrived upon our globe, we can, m 
l^e^ec^nd^piac'e^ pursulftEe connexion through all the 
ports. We can observe marks of a common relation^ 
as~weTT to one another, as to the elements of which 
jJieir- Habitation is compose! TherefbTe^ne^mind 
hath planned, or at least hath prescribed, a general 
plan for all these productions. One Being has been 
concerned in all. 

Under this stupendous Being we live. Our happi- 
ness, our existence, is in his hands. All we expect 
must come from him. Nor ought we to feel our si- 
tuation insecure. In every nature, and in every por- 
tion of nature, which we can descry, we find atten- 
tion bestowed upon even the minutest parts. The 
hinges in the wings of an earwig, and the joints of its 
antennae, are as highly wrought, as if the Creator had 
nothing else to finish. We see no signs of diminution 
of care by multiplicity of objects, or of distraction of 
thought by variety. We have no reason to fear, there- 
fore, our being forgotten, or overlooked, or neglected. 

The existence and character of the Deity, is, in 


every view, the most interesting of all human specula- 
tions. In none, however, is it more so, than as it faci- 
litates the belief of the fundamental articles of Revela- 
tion. It is a step to have it proved, that there must 
be something in the world more than what we see. It 
is a farther step to know, that, amongst the invisible 
things of nature, there must be an intelligent mind, 
concerned in its production, order, and support. These 
points being assured to us by Natural Theology, we 
may well leave to Revelation the disclosure of many 
particulars, which our researches cannot reach, respect- 
ing either the nature of this Being as the original cause 
of all things, or his character and designs as a moral go- 
vernor; and not only so, but the more full confirmation 
of other particulars, of which, though they do not lie 
altogether beyond our reasonings and our probabilities, 
the certainty is by no means equal to the importance. 
The true theist will be the first to listen to any credible 
communication of Divine knowledge. Nothing which 
he has learnt from Natural Theology will diminish his 
desire of farther instruction, or his disposition to receive 
it with humility and thankfulness. He wishes for light : 
he rejoices in light. His inward veneration of this 
great Being will incline him to attend with the utmost 
seriousness, not only to all that can be discovered con- 
cerning him by researches into nature, but to all that is 
taught by a revelation, which gives reasonable proof of 
having proceeded from him. 

But, above every other article of revealed religion, 
does the anterior belief of a Deity bear with the 
strongest force upon that grand point, which gives in- 
deed interest and importance to all the rest, — the re- 
surrection of the human dead. The thing might appear 
hopeless, did we not see a power at work adequate to 


the effect, a power under the guidance of an intelligent 
will, and a power penetrating the inmost recesses of all 
substance. I am far from justifying the opinion of 
those, who "thought it a thing incredible, that God 
should raise the dead:" but I admit, that it is first 
necessary to be persuaded, that there is a God, to do 
so. This being thoroughly settled in our minds, there 
seems to be nothing in this process (concealed as we 
confess it to be) which need to shock our belief. They 
who have taken up the opinion, that the acts of the 
human mind depend upon organisation, that the mind 
itself indeed consists in organisation, are supposed to 
find a greater difficulty than others do, in admitting a 
transition by death to a new state of sentient existence, 
because the old organisation is apparently dissolved. 
But I do not see that any impracticability need be ap- 
prehended even by these; or that the change, even 
upon their hypothesis, is far removed from the analogy 
of some other operations, which we know with certainty 
that the Deity is carrying on. In the ordinary deriva- 
tion of plants and animals, from one another, a particle, 
in many cases, minuter than all assignable, all conceiva- 
ble dimension; an aura, an effluvium, an infinitesimal; 
determines the organisation of a future body: does no 
less than fix, whether that which is about to be pro- 
duced shall be a vegetable, a merely sentient, or a ra- 
tional being; an oak, a frog, or a philosopher; makes 
all these differences; gives to the future body its qua- 
lities, and nature, and species. And this particle, 
from which springs, and by which is determined, a 
whole future nature, itself proceeds from, and owes its 
constitution to, a prior body: nevertheless, which is 
seen in plants most decisively, the incepted organisa- 
tion, though formed within, and through, and by, a 


preceding organisation, is not corrupted by its corrup- 
tion, or destroyed by its dissolution : but, on the con- 
trary, is sometimes extricated and developed by those 
very causes ; survives and comes into action, when the 
purpose, for which it was prepared, requires its use. 
Now an oeconomy which nature has adopted, when the 
purpose was to transfer an organisation from one indi- 
vidual to another, may have something analogous to it, 
when the purpose is to transmit an organisation from 
one state of being to another state: and they who 
found thought in organisation, may see something in 
this analogy applicable to their difficulties ; for, what- 
ever can transmit a similarity of organisation will an- 
swer their purpose, because, according even to their 
own theory, it may be the vehicle of consciousness, and 
because consciousness carries identity and individuality 
along with it through all changes of form or of visible 
qualities. In the most general case, that, as we have 
said, of the derivation of plants and animals from one 
another, the latent organisation is either itself similar 
to the old organisation, or has the power of communi- 
cating to new matter the old organic form. But it is 
not restricted to this rule. There are other cases, 
especially in the progress of insect life, in which the 
dormant organisation does not much resemble that 
which encloses it, and still less suits with the situation 
in which the enclosing body is placed, but suits with a 
different situation to which it is destined. In the larva 
of the libellula, which lives constantly, and has still 
long to live under water, are descried the wings of a 
fly, which two years afterwards is to mount into the 
air. Is there nothing in this analogy? It serves at 
least to show, that even in the observable course of 
nature, organisations are formed one beneath another ; 


and, amongst a thousand other instances, it shows com- 
pletely, that the Deity can mould and fashion the parts 
of material nature, so as to fulfil any purpose whatever 
which he is pleased to appoint. 

They who refer the operations of mind to a substance 
totally and essentially different from matter (as most 
certainly these operations, though affected by material 
causes, hold very little affinity to any properties of 
matter with which we are acquainted), adopt perhaps a 
juster reasoning and a better philosophy: and by these 
the considerations above suggested are not wanted, at 
least in the same degree. But to such as find, which 
some persons do find, an insuperable difficulty in shaking 
off an adherence to those analogies, which the cor- 
poreal world is continually suggesting to their thoughts ; 
to such, I say, every consideration will be a relief, 
which manifests the extent of that intelligent power 
which is acting in nature, the fruitfulness of its re- 
sources, the variety^ and aptness, and success of its 
means ; most especially every consideration, which tends 
to show that, in the translation of a conscious existence, 
there is not, even in their own way of regarding it, any 
thing greatly beyond, or totally unlike, what takes place 
in such parts (probably small parts) of the order of 
nature, as are accessible to our observation. 

Again ; if there be those who think, that the con- 
tractedness and debility of the human faculties in our 
present state seem ill to accord with the high destinies 
which the expectations of religion point out to us; I 
would only ask them, whether any one, who saw a child 
two hours after its birth, could suppose that it would 
ever come to understand fluxions * ; or who then shall 
say, what farther amplification of intellectual powers, 
* See Search's Light of Nature, passim. 


what accession of knowledge, what advance and im- 
provement, the rational faculty, be its constitution what 
it will, may not admit of, when placed amidst new ob- 
jects, and endowed with a sensorium adapted, as it un- 
doubtedly will be, and as our present senses are, to the 
perception of those substances, and of those properties 
of things, with which our concern may lie. 

Upon the whole ; in every thing which respects this 
awful, but, as we trust, glorious change, we have a wise 
and powerful Being (the author, in nature, of infinitely 
various expedients for infinitely various ends), upon 
whom to rely for the choice and appointment of means 
adequate to the execution of any plan which his good- 
ness or his justice may have formed, for the moral and 
accountable part of his terrestrial creation. That great 
office rests with him; be it ours to hope and to prepare, 
under a firm and settled persuasion, that, living and 
dying, we are his; that life is passed in his constant 
presence, that death resigns us to his merciful disposal. 






Paley, William 
Works New ed.